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UJOntO 17 






Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 


"The Magazine With A Bad Attitude" i 

ISSUE 17 • AUTUMN 1986 






'a'e by luciiie brown 

tale by lucius cabins 

tale by florence burns 





'^'^'^yc.s. black 

Cover graphic by: Tom Tomorrow 

Talking Heads Roll 2 

SPECIAL SECTION: Tales of Termination 
Drop-Safe With the Gaping Maw ^■^' 

The Making of a Bad Attitude 5 ,^ 

Termination Times Two 11 

Charley Brown's: Where Everything Is 'Prime' 14 

Lose Jobs Now! Ask Me How! 18 

Naked Agenda 21 

End Game 24 game by primitive morales and louis michaelson 

Where's The Dirt? 26 — ' "*" ^'^ '^^ '^ ^ ^^^^ >^ ^""P"^^ ^^ f^ennis bayes 

The Factory and Beyond 31 '^^ . ^ ^5,^ kUpsc*^"^^ 

P°«^^y ""^'^^ ^^^^^^^^ '"terviewbymaxineholz 

Flexing Muscles at Flax: Anatomy of Service Sector Organizing 36 -*^ ''^ 

The Pursuit of Happiness 43 -^^^-^ 

Letters 46 — '-»' 

review by lucius cabins and dennis hayes 





All of thearticles in Processed World reflectthe views 
and fantasies of the author and not necessarily those 
of other contributors. 

ISSN 0735-9381. Processed World is indexed in the 
Alternative Press Index. 

CREDITS: Zoe Noe, Linda Thomas, Maxine Holz, 
Primitivo Morales, Louis Michaelson, The Big Mud 
Duck, The Armenian, Pauline Paranoia, Tom 
Tomorrow, Ana Logue, Emily, Frog, Michelle L.P., 

Rupert Burley, Clayton Sheridan, Friends of the 
Toad, Conover, Lucius Cabins, Florence Burns, D.S. 
Black, Bevel, Helen Highwater, Moammar 
Crawdaddy, Red Star Black Rose, and many more... 


• Processed World publishes first issue! 

• Bank of America was riding high! 


• Processed World ' s circulation up again ! 

• Bank of America demise imminent! 


WE DO!! 



$ 10 Regular 

$ 5 Low Income 

$ 15 Libraries/Non-profit Institutions/Outside of us surface mail 

$ 25 Outside of US Institutions/Libraries or air mail 

$100 Lifetime (PW's, not yours!) subscription 

$150 Corporations & Gov't. Agencies 

$3.00 each for back issues (earlier issues are partially photocopied] 






Start my (4 issue) sub with PW #: 

Outside of U.S.: Please send $ in U.S. Funds, or int'I. money order 
Mail to Processed World41 Sutter St. #1829, S.F., CA 94104 




till gagging &om this summer's 
star-spangled, corporate- 
sponsored, sanitized salute to 
American "liberty"? Well, throw out your 
Pepto Bismol and plunge right into 
PROCESSED WORLD 17, the special 
Termination issue. And remember: Lady 
Liberty does not have to work for a living. 

The issue begins with a special section 
devoted to the subject of termination — for 
our purpose, getting fired. Here, Bill 
Dollar, Lucius Cabins, Florence Bums, 
Lucille Brown and Zoe Noe recount their 
sometimes hilarious but more often infuri- 
ating experiences of what is euphemisti- 
cally called "being let go." 

We also offer behind-the-scenes close- 
ups of two contrasting job situations. 
Dennis Hayes' WHERE'S THE DIRT? 
analyzes the frighteningly invisible toxic 
menace to microchip assemblers in Silicon 
Valley and their even more frightening 
passivity in the face of corporate pre- 
FLAX we see the ups and downs of a grass- 
roots unionization drive at San Francisco's 
biggest art supplies store, via Maxine 
Holz's interview with two of the 

Also included are a riveting piece of 
fiction by D.S. Black, NAKED AGENDA, a 
review by klipschutz of the poet 
Antler's magnum opus FACTORY, and 
Lucius Cabins's and Dennis Hayes's 
review of the stage play THE PURSUIT OF 
HAPPINESS. Poetry and readers' letters 
(now found at the end of the magazine) 
round out the issue. 

But back to the subject of termination. 
The PW staff is painfully aware that job 
loss is a complex and serious issue, several 
dimensions of which are not covered in the 
"Tales of Termination." Our stories 
express the viewpoint of young, single 
white people for whom firing poses a 
political indignity, but not an irrevocable 
threat to their livelihood. There is no 
mention of the mass layoffs resulting from 
de-industrialization, or of the plight of its 
displaced victims, for whom the notorious 
"bad attitude" is probably nothing more 
than a frustrated fantasy. For these un- 
fortunates, termination represents a fright- 
ening tumble into a pit of unemployment or 
underemployment from which there is little 
hope of escape. 

Coincidentally, in a recent review of 
magazine, writer George Scialabba 
comments on PW's restricted point of 
view. He writes that the magazine has 




"given a voice to the poets, misfits and 
rebels," and also shown that "there's a 
good deal of the poet, misfit and rebel in 
ordinary people as well." But he very 
astutely points out that "the reverse is also 
true: even in poets, misfits and rebels 
there are 'ordinary' aspirations, e.g. for 
stability, rootedness, and yes, for comfort 
and convenience." Would PW be able to 
address the issue of "how to grow up and 
stay radical"? One PWer decided to tackle 
the flip side of flippancy by recounting the 
paradox of her search for security. 


I've always been security-minded. On 
the other hand, I've always resented and 
despised the very idea of wage labor. Quite 
a dilemma for a first-generation American 
who has never occupied the comfortable 
ranks of the middle class. 

Economic stability has always been up 
there in my top five life goals, owing, no 
doubt, to the insecurity of my childhood. 
My immigrant parents never really took to 
the market economy in America. They 
remained helpless and insecure in the face 
of go-get-'em individualism, living humbly 
and methodically according to the precepts 
of pre- World War II Europe. My dad dili- 
gently paid all the bills in cash, in person, 
never realizing that a checking account 
could "save time." Both parents kept the 
same low-paying jobs for eons, never 
aspiring to move up the ranks into the 
conniving managerial class. Ambition, 
American-style, was to them an extremely 
crass and distasteful pursuit. 

However enlightened my parents may 
seem, their lack of adjustment to middle 
class values caused me endless problems. 
As a kid I suffered adult-like anxiety about 
money and our lack of it. I was constandy 
worried by our family's medical bills, 
inadequate medical insurance, and 
perpetual indebtedness to this or that 
doctor. All the anxiety this situation 
produced seemed to result in more illness, 
accidents, and bills — and less insurance. 

My disquiet over the money problem 
was exacerbated by my old-world, anti- 
capitalist father who gave us daily diatribes 
about the decadence of American mass 
culture, likening it to the fall of the Roman 
Empire. He told his little daughters that 
consumer goods were frivolities master- 
minded by the rich to keep the working 
people in chains. They were "wasteful" 
products that contributed to a "weak" 
character. Why vacation when you could 
work? Why eat out when food was just as 
good at home? And piano lessons? Those 
were a luxury that only the rich could 

Yet our lives were made miserable by 
the chronic money shortage. My father 
refused us most of the pleasure products 
that were de rigueur in sixties suburbia. 
Our junky, used cars continually broke 
down on the freeway, the car being our sole 
means of escaping to the beach or the 
mountains, or to look at the rich people's 
homes. Our own house was excrutiatingly 
insufficient, with seven people (two of 
them elderly grandparents) and one very 
loud T. v., squeezed into its five rooms. 

Luckily, my mom's employment at the 
local department store enabled us to pass 
as middle class. Thanks to her 20% 
discount and her uncanny understanding of 
children's needs, she defiantly provided us 
with some of the more affordable requisites 
for membership in the Suburban Club — 
while teaching my dad a thing or two about 
the fundamentals of human psychology. 
Nevertheless, at a very early age, I had an 
advanced and quite painful understanding 
of the importance of money in our society. 
As a teenager my deepest ambition was 
to act on the stage, but I quickly abandoned 
it. realizing that the work was not stable 
enough for my tastes. Once out of college I 
opted for a career I felt would better 
coincide with my political beliefs but still 
provide a surefire paycheck every month. 
That "stable" profession was college 
teaching. It was 1979. 

One hitch in the grand plan to marry 
ideals to economics was that I detested 
graduate school. Another was that the job 
market for teaching was closing fast. This 
only highlighted the absurdity of my 
slaving away in grad school and the 
fawning acquiesence of my fellow students 
to the faculty. 

I decided to try other careers for a while, 
which resulted in a 16-month sfint as a 
temporary word processor and a near 
nervous breakdown. No matter what the 
job situation I would leave at 5 p.m. fuming 
at my dumb-shit bosses, who bolstered 



NOW i 


their feeble egos by generating a feverish 
pace of work; a pace which, I soon realized, 
masked the work's meaninglessness. This 
was also about the time I started reading 
Processed World, which awoke me to the 
fact that wage labor was a no-win situation. 
Whether word processing for the law firm 
or thought processing for the university, 
the employee always loses, financially, 
psychologically, and emotionally. 

It also became clear that any kind of 
career whatever under capitalism was a 
sham — and especially so in the 1980s. Pro- 
fessionalization, I realized, was nothing 
more than a tremendous ruse to get a 
swollen baby-boom generation to compete 
harder than its parents for fewer jobs while 
feeling more important. 

Yet, 1 returned to graduate school, more 
bitter and suspicious, but still tethered to 
my longings for security. What mostly got 
me through three more years was my 
enjoyment of, and devotion to, assistant 
teaching, to the exchange between student 
and teacher. I learned to ignore the higher- 
ups and do my own thing in the classroom. 

What also helped me through was my 

decision to chuck academia and start 
teaching in the community colleges, which 
I now do part-time. I've come full circle — 
I'm a teaching temp. I get hired and fired 
at the whim of the administration, my pay 
is ridiculously low, I have no benefits and 
no perks, and there are no full-time jobs to 
be had. 

If this were a few years ago, I'd probably 
walk out of this situation in a huff. But now 
I am very carefully planning my ascent up 
the pyramid into full-time, permanent 
status, with its insurance benefits, pension 
plans, and the rest of the perks that buy off 
the average worker. I know that, as usual, 
I'll come to resent full-time work — the 
same early hours, the same commute, the 
same four walls, the same people, the 
same surrender of my Self to the institution 
— despite my appreciation of the students. 
But right now it seems worth it. 

In part, this is because my now-retired 
parents live off meager social security 
benefits, and my first-generation instinct is 
to help them. The other part comes from 
the me-generation instinct, which warns 
against getting myself into their situation 



GOING CRAZY. . . / , .,. ■ J Z TZ "" 

J Why did you let me write 

this memo? The information 's wrong, the spelling 

awful! Can 't I do anything right? Make me an 

appointment at Frenchy's Massage Parlor! And 

Betty— YOU'RE FIRED!! 

when I'm old. I also realize that I would like 
to have kids and I sure as hell don't want 
them to inherit my money anxiety. In other 
words, I am facing adulthood and doing 
what I think is best. 

Do I worry I'll sell out one day and 
become "too bourgeois"? Not really. 
Although I've come to recognize and 
accept my desire for security, I am well 
aware that it can't truly be fulfilled in 
corporate America. In reality, the stability 
of middle-class life is very tenuous. Any 
serious illness, accident or layoff has disas- 
trous implications for people increasingly 
denied social services by the state and 
lacking an extended-family support net- 
work to fall back on. 

Without any guarantee of financial 
support should fate be unkind, Americans 
cling to products of capitalism which 
symbolize security. They collect "things" 
as padding, little realizing that the social 
structure creates the insecurity they run 

Which brings me to my final point: I 
think that radicals who have consciously 
embraced marginality have mistakenly 
tended to scorn working people's desire for 
security, creating an artificial barrier more 
detrimental than useful. These artists, 
intellectuals and outcasts choose to remain 
apart and above, married to a life of self- 
denial and struggle in the best Christian 
tradition. Such people view anything short 
of such sacrifice as "selling out." 

I desire the life that middle-class status 
affords: family, pleasure, freedom from 
money anxiety. I'd be lying if I didn't admit 
it. I also think it's foolish to pretend that 
anyone who has struggled or suffered in 
his/her life doesn't want that. Just ask any 
recent immigrant slaving for minimum wage 
in a sweatshop, as both my grandmothers 
did. Or ask me. I hate capitalism and wage 
slavery, and probably always will. But for 
now, you can sign me, an American For 

—by Michelle L. P. 



41 Sutter Street, #1829 

San Francisco, CA 94104 

(415) 495-6823 

SUBSCRIBERS: If your mailing label has 
the number 15, 16, or 17, please renew! 

And everyone keep those letters and 
submissions coming! — We Love 'em! 



Recently, at a CALA supermarket in San 
Francisco, I came to the check-out with a quart 
of buttermilk for myself, and an expensive bottle of 
ale for a friend, and the young woman at the cash 
register charged me only for the buttermilk. The boy 
who was bagging scoped what she did, and we all three 
caught each other's eye, and nobody said anything, but 
the girl smiled slightly, and then I said "Thankyoubye" 
and left, feeling great from the experience. I'm sure 
they enjoyed the joke, too. 

Ten years ago I worked as a clerk in a very popular 
health food store in San Francisco, stocking shelves, 
minding the produce and occasionally tending the cash 
register. The place was very successful, doing in excess 
of a million dollars worth of business annually when I 
worked there. The owner was a very driven, "Type A" 
kind of guy, who showed great single-mindedness in 
pursuit of the bucks. I didn't care for him much. He was 
a sleaze who chased the female employees. 

The longer I worked in this place, the more I took to a prac- 
tice which some European intellectuals have (I believe) called 
"self-reduction," that is, using my place in the system to 
subvert the system. Friends of mine, friends of friends, and 
anyone who looked like their food budget was a major 
concern got fabulous discounts. Fabulous discounts. During 
the time I worked in that store I made a hobby out of doing 
that type of thing. I know it always made me feel great. 

Other people who worked there engaged in the same sort 
of thing, to one degree or another, and certainly everyone 
took food for themselves, the boss expected it. Despite all 
this, the store continued to be very profitable. There was a 
concrete drop safe in the back of the store, with a slot in it 
through which the cashiers were to drop, at the end of their 
shifts, the envelopes containing their cash register tape, cash 
and checks. Sometimes the take from a particular shift would 
be so massive the cashiers would have problems jamming 
the wads of cash through the narrow slot. A couple of them 
found it very frustrating to have to do this after a tiring shift, 
and they complained of it. So the boss widened the slot in the 
concrete with a cold chisel and hammer. A short while later, 
it was widened again (thick wads of cash) so that a young boy 
could get his hand and forearm in there easily. Once, when I 
was in the back of the store getting high with a friend, my 
friend scoped the drop safe with the gaping maw, and he 

started listing ways I could fish the cash back out, but I never 
did use any of them. I certainly wish I had. 

Somebody else took the initiative. One morning they came 
up a thousand dollars short (the tape was there, the cash was 
not) and the proverbial shit hit the fan. Management's 
solution to this thorny problem was to get everybody to take a 
lie detector test, or else they could take a walk. Within a day 
or two the lie detector test guys showed up, and all the 
employees had to be there, too, or else. 

There were two lie detector test guys, and they came in two 
customized vans with lie detectors mside. No waiting! I said 
no way was I going to take that lie detector test. The straw 
boss (a guy I actually liked) said fine, get lost, and by the way 
that proves to me that you took the thousand bucks. Well that 
got me steamed. It was a total Catch-22! So I decided, since I 
was going to be fired anyway, that I would take that test, and 
confess to all my little crimes (which I thought might actually 
be fun) and exonerate myself of that one big crime. Wrong, 
Wrong, Wrong!!! I don't really want to go into too .much 
detail about my ordeal in the customized van. It was horrid, 
naturally. I sat in this plush chair wired up to this machine 
like a laboratory animal, while this Marcus Welby android 
asked me questions and studied the readings on his machine. 
He started with some really dumb questions, I guess to make 
sure his machine was working, and then he started asking me 
questions about the store, and what I did there, and I told 
only the truth, which was certainly enough to get me fired, 
make no mistake. Then he asked me point blank, did I take 
the thousand? and I told him point blank, "No." And he said 
well the machine says you are lying, so he asked me again, 
and I told the truth again, and he said well the machine says 
you're lying again, as far as I'm concerned you did it. So he 
fingered me. Hey, Kafka ain't in it! 

So I left the place in shame and disgrace, with everybody 
secretly respecting me for being a bad dude (ha-ha, just 
kidding) because the lie detector test guy said I did it. I'm 
sure that everybody who asked about my sudden disap- 
pearance from the store got the same story. It occurs to me as 
I write this (reflecting back on that sordid affair for this first 
time in quite a few years) that I might actually have sued 
them for defamation of character and won, because the guy 
who did it (ex-boyfriend of one of the cashiers, I think) came 
forward, not to confess, but to brag about it to the boss's face 
(good for him!). This was about a month later, too late for 
them to make a case, I guess. Anyway the young buck just 
couldn't resist bragging about what he did. 1 really do wish it 
had been me. Oh well, at least there is in this story a moral 
for us all, which is: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIR- 
Thank you. by Bill Dollar 

Vsfit ^zev^/z: £U^/- 

On/^ ^ctc cCo-/// 






I The Making Qf 









of my 




f've been working for money since I was fourteen 
years old. I've held a variety of jobs: caddy, baker, 
housepainter, furniture refinisher, bookstore clerk, 
environmental door-to-door canvasser, warehouseman, 
information desk clerk, temporary word processor, 
secretary, and now typesetter/graphic artist. For the 
past five years I've been involved with Processed 
World, and its bad attitude has been a part of my 
employment history for years. 

What is a bad attitude? I'd say it's a general 
unwillingness to submit to the conditions of 
wage-slavery. It's demonstrated most dramatically in a 
surly, uncooperative manner on the job, but must 
usually be more subtle. The worker with a bad attitude 
is always looking for ways to work less (procrastination, 
losing things), to surrender less time to the job (coming 
in late, leaving early, long breaks and lunches, lots of 
sick days), to further private pleasures and human 
interaction on the job (talking a lot, smoking dope), and 
by doing one's own creative work on the job. 

A bad attitude is a fundamentally normal, human 
response to the utter absurdity of most modern work. 
It's a mystery to me why more people don't demon- 
strate a bad attitude— I suppose it's because they fear 
unemployment and/or lost income and have learned to 
smile and hide their true feelings. Of course I've done 
that too, and all too often. You can't get a job in the first 
place without smiling and lying through your teeth! 

Sometimes people don't demonstrate bad attitudes 

because they actually enjoy their work. Why people 
enjoy work is harder to explain, but I postulate three 
basic reasons; 1) the work is a convergence of 
avocational interests and paying work (this is extremely 
rare); 2) the work, though boring and/or frustrating, is 
preferable to the individual's life with family, or 
friends, or lack thereof; and 3) going to work saves one 
from finding and creating meaning, of deciding what's 
worth doing (this is obviously not an explicit motivation, 
but 1 think it is a subterranean spur). In the latter two 
cases, the job serves as a safe haven from the vacuum 
of meaninglessness in which this society would other- 
wise leave the individual. Providing economic security 
reinforces this feeling. 

A bad attitude is also a strategic choice in terms of 
on-the-job resistance and organizing. It may not always 
be the best choice either! Often, as in my situations at 
Waldenbooks and at Pacific Software, my attitude 
pissed off my coworkers as much as the management. 
This in turn increased my isolation and despair, which 
undermined the possibility of active resistance. All too 
often coworkers are as likely to be adversaries as allies 
owing to their identification with management, or to 
their own fear. Alienating oneself from gung-ho co- 
workers can also be an effective survival strategy. 

My bad attitude didn't result from a specific job, or 
erupt suddenly. I had felt stunted and that I was 
wasting my time in public school. Growing up in 
Chicago and Oakland I found myself in classrooms 
where I almost always sat through reviews of miaterial I 


already knew like the back of my hand. 
Busywork was the rule, not the exception. 
Little did I realize then that my work life 
would be remarkably similar. 

1 should qualify the story of my bad 
attitude by pointing out that I've had an 
extremely easy time finding work. My 
status as an educated, articulate, white 
male with decent typing skills has ensured 
that. I've seldom feared losing a job so 
much that I'd endure any humiliation, so 
having a bad attitude has been easy for me. 

I should also mention that I'm a good 
worker. I actually enjoy doing a wide 
variety of tasks and hope to live someday in 
a society where I can freely use my 
numerous skills in my community without 
getting locked into a "career path." I tend 
to be over-efficient and organized, but this 
leaves me feeling stupid on paying jobs 
because virtually all of them have been 
fundamentally useless to society, and my 
skills benefited the owners, not me. I don't 
think all work is stupid and useless, but 
even when there is a tangible purpose and 
value, the work is organized to ensure that 
more than half of the time spent is taken up 
with superfluous paperwork, redundant 
busywork, and meeting the needs of the 
money system, not the actual human needs 
it ostensibly serves. 


My first "real" job came in 1974 when I 
got hired by Waldenbooks in a new mall 
outside Philadelphia, for $2.10 an hour 
(minimum wage at the time). I felt lucky 
because at 17 I wasn't really eligible for 
employment under Pennsylvania's child 
labor laws. As it turned out, it was the first 
time my common sense ran smack into the 
rules of the job and hence my first display 
of a bad attitude. 

Business was pretty slow, so after 
dutifully cruising the store to straighten 
tables and replace sold books, I ended up 
behind the register with a good book. 
Much to my amazement, this was not 
allowed by Waldenbooks's chainwide 
rules! I was supposed to be on my feet for 
the entire 8-hour shift (it was presumably 
an act of kindness that my boss allowed a 
chair behind the counter), and further- 
more, we clerks were to greet each cus- 
tomer at the door and try to sell him or her 
books. Allowing people to browse, that 
time-honored bookstore tradition, was 
considered bad management. Our mana- 
ger was frequently chastised for her staff's 
lack of aggressiveness! 

In spite of regular admonitions to stop, I 
continued to read behind the counter, 
arguing that no one could possibly be 
offended by a bookstore clerk reading! Of 
course I also did a huge share of basic store 
maintenance — book stocking and ordering, 
minor bookkeeping, etc. — plus I knew 
where books were better than the other 
employees — they needed my labor and 

You've seen what 
technology can do... 
Are you gonna let 
nature stop you now? 

knew it, so the standoff lasted for months. 

1 left for college after Xmas and they 
begged me to come back for the summer. 
When I did, I was informed that all males 
must wear ties while working. That was 
really too much; no way was I going to 
wear a tie as a flunky sales clerk for $2.25 
an hour! 

After some heavy scenes with the store 
and district managers, I finally submitted. 
But I always took my tie off for lunch and 
"forgot" to put it on afterward. This 
omission permanently ruined relation- 
ships with my more obedient coworkers, 
who weren't inclined to fight about this. I 
lasted a few more weeks and then quit — I 
had completely stopped wearing a tie and 
blatantly spent time reading at the 
register. My days were numbered, so I 

This job taught me that work wasn't 
much different from school. I had learned a 
foolproof strategy in junior high school: 
work really hard and impress teachers 
during the first weeks; they'll label you an 
overachiever and leave you alone the rest 
of the year. My early work experience 
taught me that the sartie strategy worked 

just as well on the job. Wage work depends 
on busywork just as public school does. 

Common sense told me that if I had 
created some "free" time 1 should be the 
beneficiary of that "freedom." Obviously 
this flies right in the face of management's 
idiotic view that every minute of the work 
day is theirs and if you finish something 
that was supposed to take ail day, you owe 
it to them to ask for more (usually un- 
necessary) work. 


I decided to work full-time at Books Inc. 
in Santa Rosa in August 1977. What I liked 
best about the job was its difference from 
my Waldenbooks one. We could dress 
comfortably, talk with each other when it 
wasn't busy, and "borrow" books freely 
(everyone did, even the store manager). 
But then my closest friend on the job, 
Karen, became assistant manager. After 
our brief affair had soured she suddenly 
wanted us underlings to restock the 
shelves more often, cruise the store and 
not read behind the register. I felt she 
should be our mouthpiece to management, 
but she identified with management. Later 
she accused me of being too political and 

In October I first approached the Retail 
Clerks Union, which had an office in the 
mall. But it was always empty, and no one 
ever called me back after I'd left a 
message. 1 tried again once or twice, not 
really knowing what 1 wanted from them. 
They never did get back to me. 

The Xmas rush started in November, 
and the frenzy continued to mount after the 
big day. The store was wildly successful, 
and we workers could tell by our fatigue, 
sales, and the happy reports from our 
manager, Loretta, and the chain owner, 
Lou. We were frequently encouraged to 
look at the books to see just how well we 
were doing. 

In early January I took a short, much- 
needed vacation before which I had figured 
out how much more the store made in the 
just-passed holiday season than in the 
previous one. My calculations indicated a 
41% increase in revenues, and so I wrote a 
letter to Loretta detailing this information 
and encouraged her to ask for 15% raises 
for everyone. But I had made the mistake 
of telling her mousy niece, who did the 
books, that I was writing this letter, 
thinking she'd be glad for a raise. 

When I got back from my vacation, a 
message directed me to call Loretta before 
I went to work on Monday morning — 
highly unusual. I called her. and she said, 
"I hear you've written a letter to Lou over 
my head, demanding a raise. Well, you 
know I have to fire you." I protested 
because I still had the letter in hand, and it 
was addressed to her. but she had made up 
her mind, blaming it all on my attitude 


Unjustly canned, I called the National 
Labor Relations Board. My NLRB staffer 
didn't think I had much of a case but was 
very sympathetic and ultimately convinced 
Lou to settle with me for 2 weeks pay and to 
post a notice in all Books Inc. stores, 
prohibiting management's discharge of 
workers for their "protected, concerted 
activities." The fact that I had called the 
union a couple of times, and that some of 
the other workers would have probably 

grants and refugees that prepared them for 
rudimentary data entry jobs at very low 

The job's nemesis was familiar — I 
wasn't allowed to read, even when there 
was nothing to do. I was supposed to "look 
professional" according to my insecure, 
drcssed-for-success, corporate climbing 
boss, Ms. Walton. She was appallingly 
dumb, and as far as 1 could tell she hardly 
knew anything about goings-on in the 

tell me about this?!" 

I said, "Oh, is that the yellow leaflet I 
was told about? Can I see it?" 1 took it and 
sat down and slowly read it as if I had never 
seen it before. I chuckled at the funny 
parts, dragging out my feigned surprise 
until she finally exploded: 

"You are SICK! You must be deranged 
to do something like this; it's damaging to 
our institute, YOU'RE FIRED!!" I denied 
responsibility just in case some kind of 

"...even when there is a tangible purpose and value, work is organized to 
ensure that more than half of the time spent is taken up with superfluous paper- 
work, redundant busywork, and meeting the needs of the money system, not the 
actual human needs it ostensibly serves." 

defended me in a hearing, saying that I 
represented them in appealing for a raise, 
is what won the case for me. A pleasant 
postscript: three years later, another 
Processed Worlder told me that he had 
worked at a Books Inc. in Palo Alto at the 
same time. Both workers and management 
thought a big union battle had erupted in 
the Santa Rosa store! 

I learned a lot about organizing, 
although in a halfhearted and undeliberate 
way. For one thing, it's vital to document 
that you're trying to improve wages and 
conditions for all the workers, not just 
yourself. If you can't prove that, you aren't 
even technically protected from being 
fired. Establish a committee clandestinely 
with the people you know you can count on. 
Then determine when and if you should go 
public; often your best protection from 
management harrassment is announcing 
that you are a union organizer (not neces- 
sarily affiliated) because management can 
be accused of illegal labor practices for any 
trouble they give you. 


My stint at the Downtown Community 
College at 4th and Mission in San 
Francisco lasted a mere three months. But 
it was a turning point for a couple of 
reasons. For one thing I learned word 
processing there, which catapulted me 
from $5-$6/hr. jobs up to $10-$12/hr. ones. 
It also made me aware that most people 
worked in offices, especially in SF, and I 
wanted to address this fact, since I too was 
suddenly an "information handler." As an 
information clerk I sat right inside the 
front door and spent seven hours a day 
telling people where the bathroom was, 
when and where classes met, and about 
English as a second language. The school 
provided two basic services, both primarily 
for the benefit of the downtown office 
world: basic training in office skills and 
English classes for newly arrived immi- 

school. 1 think she was an image-builder 
for the community colleges. Knowing little 
and being self-conscious about it, she was 
pressured to accomplish things she didn't 
understand, and she'd vent her fears by 
admonishing me for reading the paper at 
my desk during lulls. My feeling was that if 
I could do my job well I should be able to 
pass dead time in any way I pleased. Much 
to my chagrin my "superiors" didn't share 
this outlook. 

I had never planned to stay long, despite 
the two-year minimum I promised in the 
interview. Instead I was going east for a 
nice, long, summer vacation. About six 
weeks before I planned to quit, I composed 
a fake advertisement for the DCCC and had 
it printed up. This ad summarized all my 
jaded views of the purpose of this 
"training institute for the clerical working- 
class" after a few months of being there 40 
hours a week. About ten days before I had 
planned to quit, I began surreptitiously 
placing them inside the Fall schedules of 
SF City College, which I distributed at the 
front desk. A few days later the shit hit the 
fan. A coworker came running up to me 
when I came to work in the morning and 
asked if I had done a yellow leaflet that had 
the entire school in an uproar. Apparently 
a Bechtel executive had turned it in to the 
administration the night before. I smiled 
and told her "No, never heard of it." It was 
nonetheless obvious to my coworkers, who 
knew of my bad attitude, that I was the 

I was absent from my work station 
when the snooty director. Dr. B, came in, 
oblivious to my "crime." She gave me a 
dark look as I scurried back to my position. 
Five minutes later the phone rang, and I 
was told to come to her office. She looked 
rather pale as I entered. She was boiling 
but tried to act calm. From beneath a 
16-inch pile of papers she pulled out a copy 
of the leaflet — she had only seen it 
moments ago and had already hidden it — 
and thrust it at me, saying "What can you 

lawsuit resulted (I had put her name and 
the school's actual logo on it) and protested 
that I wanted to complete my final week, 
but she told me to go. I left feeling quite 
satisfied with the extra days off before my 


Later, with my new word processing 
skills, I plunged into the sordid world of 
office work in downtown San Francisco. 
Through a couple of different employment 


agencies, I quickly found work. After a few 
one- or two-day jobs, I was placed at the 
Bank of America data center. Two other 
temps and I produced a manual that would 
eventually train computer operators in 
Florida how to use the BofA computer 
systems. It was here that I wrote a couple 
of articles for the first Processed World and 
also got most of the paper for that issue — 
"two reams a day keep the paper bills 
away!" Other early PWers got paper from 
the Federal Reserve Bank (we must buy 
our paper now, alas, having greater 

My other notable temp job was for 
Arthur Andersen, the big accounting firm. 
I remember being amazed to get $11 /hr. to 
sit around all day, answer the phone 
occasionally and type a few pages of this or 
that. The corporate ego seemingly dictated 
that someone sit at every desk. I think my 
being male really confused a number of the 
accountants. They had difficulty asking me 
to do things and probably saved them for 
the "regular girl" when she got back. 
Their consternation drove home the impor- 
tance of sexist social relations in the office. 

Temping confirmed that many people 
shared similar circumstances. Like me, 
they worked in an office but self-identified 
as dancers, writers, photographers, paint- 
ers, etc. Thinking about this while on the 
thirty-seventh floor of the Spear Street 
Tower, I wrote "The Rise of the Six-Month 
Worker," which appeared in PW ^2. 


While I was on vacation in 1981 I heard 
from some Berkeley friends about secreta- 
rial work for the Community Memory 
Project. The CMP, in keeping with its 
attempt to be a "different" enterprise, 
particularly wanted a male secretary. 

The Community Memory Project was set 
up in the early seventies as a public 
bulletin board/discussion through which 
anyone could create news using public 
microcomputers linked to a larger compu- 
ter, with installations in public places.* 

I took the job at $10 an hour, Monday to 
Thursday (I insisted on a four-day week). 
The CM collective had recently decided to 
create its own for-profit company to sell the 
software components of its system. My 
new job was as secretary for this new 
company. Pacific Software. 

For the first year or so, PS operated out 
of the same quarters as CM, a large 
Berkeley warehouse. My job was pretty 
cushy. I could read the paper and start out 

•TheSF Chronicle Teleguide system in BART stations in 
tlie Bay Area is exactly what Community Memory has 
tried to avoid. Set up in three locations in Berl<eley, CM 
allows any user to put any message on any subject into 
the system. Other users can read the message, and 
comment. The content ranges from ads for rummage 
sales, to erudite philosophical discussions. The Tele- 
guide system, however, only allows the user to access 
numbered menus advertising local businesses that 
have paid to be listed. 

An Illustrated History of 


by R.L. Tripp 

M as a curst io be 3^o\dU Were hour^i^t^g^ wcrlJ 

'f^'^^ierfe^^s fivjosss«<^. emplo-^ers bej^^ fo JetytanA not oAy hi$k pro- 


<&/o\vL-t^a*\ ve^an -f© .shape fer- 

7enkifiSj cur nxorAs 
Wartf fo talk about if? 

easy every morning. I could play pool with 
my coworkers, who were mostly "pro- 
grammers with politics." 

I liked this atmosphere far better than 
that of regular jobs partly because every- 
one was paid the same wage, but I quickly 
discovered that it really was a regular job. 
My boss, an eccentric fellow named Miller, 
wanted to make it in the software industry. 
My job was to fulfill all the tasks he could 
think of, which were plenty. He was fond of 
initiating them with rude, cryptic notes; 
e.g. "please don't fail to mail a c compiler 
list to Marcelius (just do it)" What was a 
"c compiler list"? Who was Marcelius? 
"Just do it" — was the problem in my 

On a typical day, I had to send out fifteen 
to forty information packages on our 
software "soon to be shipped!" — this 
turned out to be a joke, since the products 
weren't really ready for more than another 
year — and answer the incessant phone 

PS slowly abandoned its alternativist 
pretension and became more of a normal 
business, eventually moving to plusher 
quarters a couple of blocks away. The 
company struggled to stay alive, the 
founders pumping in new money regularly 
because the software was permanently just 
a few weeks away from shipment. After a 
year of Miller's idiosyncratic leadership — 
he was interested in what size rubber 
bands were ordered and how water ran 
through the postage meter — and the staff's 
growth to about eight workers, the 
collective hired real management staff. It 
seemed that it was the absence of a 
business plan and experienced managers 
to carry it out that held back the certain and 
explosive growth that was "just around the 

We old-timers saw this as a threat. The 
new management's "Pacific Software 
Salary & Wages Policy" of December 1982 
innocuously addressed vacations, over- 
time, holidays, and educational benefits, 



the l>\fes of rh£. emfio/ei. 

Joor- to Ofs/enf' 

IM not iJnNy f^ ttelri^ -f^re«$^ but' 

but a key parenthetical point provoked my 
ire. We now iiad to sign out for lunch. This 
meant I would either have to take a pay cut 
or work extra hours for my former pay. 
Incidentally, many of my coworkers had 
been docking themselves for lunch all 
along, but I wrote a memo outlining my 
position on "free" lunches anyway: 
"The assumption underlying the 
notion that one shouldn't be paid for 
lunch can only be that it is not work- 
ing time, that it is in fact ' 'free" time. 
This is obviously absurd... the hour is 
entirely circumscribed by work, and 
its primary purpose is to gain nutri- 
tional sustenance and a brief respite 
from the work routine in order to be 
able to continue working. Without it 
the afternoon's productivity would 
probably go into the negative in a 
short time..." 
Miller responded with a memo full of 

numbers, claiming that my paid lunch cost 
the primary backer $10,400 per year, and 
that if we didn't have paid lunches we could 
hire an additional five and two-thirds 
people. But as his word processor I was 
already wise to his fabricating numbers to 
suit his purposes. A year earlier 1 had 
typed at least 30 different drafts of a 
prospectus in which he freely changed the 
numbers to suit his mood. So it was a 
standoff, and I continued to get paid for my 
lunch hour while several coworkers 
continued to sign out. 

Meanwhile we employees had created an 
Employee Bill of Rights for Pacific 
Software. Most important for us was the 
establishment of clear job descriptions, 
because the crisis management style led to 
enormous tension as demands on people's 
time and energy escalated. Another key 
point for us was to have absolute control 
over who represented us on the "manage- 

ment team," via regular elections and 
rotations. The response of John Dickerson, 
our nice-guy MBA who'd been brought in 
as General Manager, was both direct and 
indirect. A memo he wrote clearly showed 
that he would work to undermine our 
efforts: "I will not operate in a General 
Management capacity in a situation that 
allows the institutional possibility of sus- 
tained Guerilla Warfare on the part of a 
segment of the staff against Manage- 

The new management staff stonewalled 
this proposal over a period of months, and 
it was never formally adopted. As late as 
Feb. '83 they were still making totally 
unacceptable counter-proposals. Neverthe- 
less, the fact that the staff had been having 
meetings and formulating demands (and 
that there was this history of "collective 
self-management") put management in a 
defensive position from which it never 

Not surprisingly, 1 was known for having 
the worst attitude, which I didn't mind at 
all because it prevented almost everyone 
from dumping extra work on me. I often 
felt very isolated from my coworkers, who 
were willing to work unpaid overtime, 
make extra efforts, adapt to arbitrary 
policy changes, and try to maintain cheer- 
ful attitudes. The people I felt closest to 
had fluctuating attitudes depending on 
their views of the future and whether they 


were getting the status and responsibility 
they wanted. 

I had always maintained that I didn't 
want to be promoted because I have always 
thought it worse to create gibberish than to 
process it. I did nibble, however, at the 
possibility of developing print media for 
the company's products (since I had been 
working on PW I had learned how to do 
typesetting, layout, design, etc.). Better to 
get out of being a secretary than be a 

Well, Pacific Software just couldn't cut it 
in the marketplace. The software products 
had missed their "window" and were 
demolished by the competition. The 
backers ran out of money and couldn't keep 
a sinking ship afloat any longer. One day in 
June 1983, there was a Monday morning 
massacre. More than half the workers were 
laid off with no warning or severence pay. 
The strategic planners of this "realign- 
ment of staffing levels" foolishly figured 
that I could and would go back to doing the 
work of six people, as I had done in the pre- 
expansion days. Well, I saw my chance, 
and took it. The day after the massacre, I 
told my boss 1 was about to walk out on the 
spot, unless he would lay me off too, in 

which case I would work another three 
weeks to train replacements. What choice 
did they have? NONE!! So I got my nine 
months of unemployment benefits and 
loved every minute of it. 


Unemployment gave me the chance to 
launch self-employment, namely typeset- 
ting and graphic design, which I'm doing 
to this day. I decided to try it to avoid 
further misery in the corporate office, and 
because my partner and 1 were going to 
have a child and 1 would need a lot more 
time available for parenting responsibili- 
ties. Self-employment has certain enor- 
mous advantages over regular jobs — 
total control over my labor process, my 
being the direct beneficiary of my own 
efficiency (finally!), and working fewer 
hours (my open hours are 12-5 Mon-Fri). 

But self-employment has disadvantages 
too. Because I'm a one-man show, taking 
days off is risky. I lose income when I do. I 
also have to do all the bullshit work that 
holds any enterprise together — bookkeep- 
ing, marketing, accounts payable, order- 
ing, etc. — for which 1 am not paid directly, 
as I would be working for someone else. 

And worst of all, I can't count on a fixed 
amount of money from month to month, so 
there's insecurity too. Nor does self- 
employment solve the problem of selling 
my time. While no one is raking off a 
percentage just by being the owner, 1 must 
still play the same games: making clients 
feel good about my services, doing jobs 
that lack purpose or value, and using my 
creative abilities in unwelcome ways to 
make a living. I haven't found any more 
satisfaction in having a more "profes- 
sional" job, or in being self-employed per 

Presently, I plan to go on with this for 
another year and a half and then take off on 
a long trip with my partner and child. After 
that, who knows? Maybe I'll be forced back 
into temporary word processing; maybe I'll 
find work as a typesetter or graphic artist. 
Or perhaps I'll find something totally new 
to do. Whatever it is, after a few months 
I'll probably dislike it at best or hate it at 
worst. You see, I've got this bad attitude, 
and I just don't like selling my time to 
anyone for any purpose. That will never 

-by Lucius Cabins 








i ^ ^^^ ^ <^< ^i 


'hen I was a child "firing" conjured up images of 
both hell and burning at the stake. I had been 
shocked to learn that the bookkeeper my father 
had fired was still alive months later; somewhere 
between the hell of sin and the heaven of martyrdom I 
figured she was burning still. I didn't know you could 
live through the experience, but I was destined to find 
out, and not only once. 

Both a corporate law firm and a major publisher fired 
me. A series of small rebellions, coupled with suspect 
habits and guileless questions had made me a target 
the first time. To begin with, I was a nonsmoking vege- 
tarian who didn't get many lunch hours because my 
work schedule had been adjusted to accommodate my 
rehearsal schedule (I'm a classical musician). And I 
didn't drink on the few lunch hours I spent with my 
coworkers, i.e., get into group sloth to pass the time 
(makes it go too slowly). An affront to my peers, I 
neither ingested the same things, followed the same 
schedule, nor settled for a life dominated by work 

Moreover, I blew a boss's cover at a meeting in which 
the phrase "paralegal program" was used. I hadn't 
known I was in a "program"; would we get certi- 
ficates? How were our education and progress being 
monitored? Were we all in this "program" or just some 
of us? Needless to say, deflating the language of a 
posturing boss further set the bureaucratic machinery 
against me. Despite grad school, my tolerance for 
bullshit wasn't high enough yet. 

Then I invited an untouchable to my birthday party. 

Office tradition called for a lengthy morning break with 
cake, a decorated desk, and gag gifts, the birthday boy 
or girl inviting pals to the fete. Of course everyone 
noted who invited whom and speculated wildly about 
the implications. (Office gossip is tolerated to the same 
extent that discussion of wages and conditions is 
discouraged, and the former has the advantage of both 
usurping and deflecting workers' energies.) Among my 
guests was a toothless old black lady who cleaned the 
bathrooms. She seemed to enjoy our. bathroom re- 
lationship as much as I did, but not all my so-called pals 
enjoyed her. When she and a partner in the firm had to 
pass cake to each other, sing together, and interact 
more or less as equals, I should have realized I'd be 
reined 'm. Instead I only took a wry pleasure in his 

Next I spurned the amorous advances of a young 
cokie lawyer who had urged me to snort in these same 
bathrooms during the day. Love letters on legal paper 
notwithstanding, membership in the officewide Drug- 
of-The-Month Club is what really qualified me for these 
honors. Certainly he was neither generous nor 
attractive; he merely wanted to discharge his drug guilt 
on someone who'd take a big wallet for a big dick. I 
passed up the latter, and the former proved inadequate 
right away; he asked to borrow $50, which I lent him in 
a moment of weakness, despite his making nearly three 
times what I did. After insisting on repayment several 
times, I only collected on the day we got our Christmas 
bonuses. And after throwing both drugs and bucks 
away on a ungrateful girl who didn't put out, he was no 
doubt keen on vengeance. 



She Could Never Be Like Everyone Else 

His sidekick was the same partner I had 
compromised at my birthday party. Newly 
promoted, i.e., made an owner, he hovered 
between being "just one of the boys" and 
"king of the mountain." Despite his nice- 
fat-guy, "call me Jim" approach, I always 
said "mister," unwittingly contributing to 
the sexual tension I wanted to ease. 
Anyway, Mr. Jim led the way on a New 
Year's Eve afternoon drunk. At 5:00, 
quitting time for us workers, I swayed 
down the hall to my cubicle, trailed by a 
tanked tank in the bulbous shape of Mr. 
Jim. I remember thinking that I'd better 
put on my boots carefully; it was too bad 
that I'd worn such a long skirt because it 
dramatized lifting it to knee level for the 
boots. But I scarcely even got that far 
before I was spreadeagled on my desk 
beneath a corpulent fumbler literally 
impressing on me the real relationship 
between employer and employee. Now 1 
knew what "program" I was in. 

I got fired six weeks later for the 
"irregular hours" that had been sanc- 
tioned initially. It hadn't occurred to me to 
make a stink about sexual harrassment, 
but even if it had, how could I have suc- 
cessfully battled a hundred corporate law- 
yers, advocates of the prevailing powers, 
economic and social? 1 was an utterly dis- 
pensible commodity with no value apart 
from my utility to them, which would cease 
once I attempted to discredit them. I 
nonetheless regret not speaking up for the 
many women (and men) who had been, 
were, or would be sexually exploited there, 
regretting my predecessors' silence as well. 
They too probably couldn't afford, finan- 
cially or psychologically, to realize that 
their jobs were already imperiled by their 
being the living reminders of ignoble 
impulses. Anyway, the office manager 
looked away when he passed me the box of 
kleenex he kept handy for the bad news he 
so frequently delivered. He just wanted the 

key and an emptied desk, roughly 
dismissing my incredulous blubberings 
about the cases I was working on. That 
admission of the work's relative insig- 
nificance is probably the truest thing a boss 
has ever said to me. 

Allegedly special treatment and tastes 
had alienated my coworkers from me, 
ultimately exacerbating their habitual 
swings between rage and torpor (the outer 
imits of too many lives). Frustrated human 
energies necessarily regress, in this case to 
a childlike identification with Big Daddy's 
prohibitions. Big Daddy, however, alias 
Mr. Jim, had another axe to grind, the one 
he was going to give me, having been less 
successful with his blunt instrument. Not 
only had 1 failed to fit in; he had failed to fit 
into me. 

Five years and two jobs later I was fired 
again. I had learned to be self-effacing, to 
deflect unwanted scrutiny with conformity 
in matters of dress, behavior, and 
deference, and to observe deadlines 
religiously. I didn't talk about music, what 
1 ate, or my personal life. I attended 
company parties but drank very little and 
left when most others did. I didn't explain 
my illness on the one day, in a year's 
employment, that I couldn't make it. I 
figured there was freedom in obscurity but 
have since learned that even the plainest 
cloak, like the gaudiest cape, can provoke 
the bull. 

There were three twists in the scenario. 
The first was that my bosses were women, 
so I should have been safe, right? Far from 
it! These women had climbed high enough 
into the patriarchs' ranks that there were 
few other women for them to emulate and 
certainly no nonpatriarchal business pre- 
cedents for them to adopt. Having no other 
script, they followed the corporate one, 
merely embellishing it with artful subtle- 
ties and fashionable slogans. These wolves 
in sheep's clothing laid my illusions about 
sisterhood to rest along with my vestigial 
belief in a safe, sensible niche where I 
could earn my living in peace. 

The second twist was my not being 
qualified for the job I'd really been hired to 
do, which differed considerably from the 
one I'd been offered. Ostensibly I'd been 
taken on as a filler-inner, a gofer, my 
inexperience justifying ridiculous wages. 
But my bosses actually wanted a surrogate 
who could function on par with them for 
low pay and no benefits. Of course they 
had to waste their time training me; other- 
wise they would have had to challenge the 
budget, i.e., the owner's tightfistedness. 
Better to clutch their meager allocation 
with one hand and wring me out with the 

Twist three was the work itself, the 
editorial end of book production. The ratio 
of real work, to "make-work" (ass-cover- 
ing documentation, fetishized record- 
keeping, designer typing) was the most 



palatable I had known. The authorities to 
which we officially appealed — dictionaries 
and reference books on the one hand, logic 
and clarity on the other — are ones I refer to 
in civilian life as well. Furthermore, I had 
already reconciled myself to management's 
capital-seeking motive because I believed 
in the product — books. 

So, a stooge on three accounts, I eagerly 
blue-pencilled away, thinking that the 
content of the manuscripts assigned me 
was my sole concern. The knight errant 
comes to mind as I recall the zeal with 
which 1 bounded through those pages, 
roaming deeply into the regions of style 
and syntactical elegance. I rescued 
danglers, reunited split infinitives, and 
righted wrongs of spelling and punctua- 
tion. I settled disputes between subject and 
verb. I drove out cliches. The history of 
these quests appeared in queries in the 
margins of manuscript pages. On each I 
meekly beseeched the author, my liege, to 
consider proposed changes. 

My unfettered leap into the heart of an 
intellectual endeavor, however, supposed- 
ly took too long, cost too much, and cast 
aspersions on the stylistically negligent 
author. Only gaffes that could damage my 
employer's reputation need be addressed, 
1 was told; mistakes in logic or usage often 
constitute the highly touted authorial 
voice. The author theoretically exercises 
veto power, but in practice the budget 
schedule team, driven hard by my bosses, 
tramples authorial protest and preferences 
alike. Profitability determines everything. 
Slick presentation is all that's needed if you 
want another book contract, another 
editing assignment. 

Cash register returns seldom justify a 
worker's intellectual or aesthetic integrity, 
and my integrity was the real issue in my 
protracted descent from favor. Having 
regularly under-reported my hours or else 
accepted fiat fees, I hadn't billed for my 
allegedly superfluous exertions; nor had 

1 missed any deadlines. So the bosses 
high-horse blatherings about budgets and 
schedules were lame. The real burr in their 
butts was my highlighting their surrender 
to expediency. What I did for love, they did 
for money. 

Not that 1 objected to being bought; like 
many wage laborers, I had eagerly pimped 
myself, implicitly promising things that 
turned my stomach. Things like cheerful 
acquiescence to any John, any act, any 
position. But I didn't "do it" right, and 
probation followed the reprimands while 
firing glimmered on the horizon. I none- 
theless gambled on my last chance and 
conceded a great deal — yes, my comments 
were pointless, yes, my ear was quirky; 
yes, I overdid things. But that wasn't 
enough. 1 myself was to be sacrificed to the 
almighty budget. Probation meant stay of 
execution, and the last chance wasn't mine 
to "improve" but theirs to exploit me. 

So there I was on Death Row. It scarcely 
mattered how 1 did my job, but how they 
did theirs merits comment in these days of 
the glorified female manager. They had 
promised feedback though probation, 
hence the plethora of sugary memos and 
encouraging remarks that followed. Pre- 
dictably, these gratuitous gestures reas- 
sured them more than me. As to the 
inevitable firing itself, one of them offered 
to take me out for coffee afterward, the 
next praised my intelligence to the skies, 
and the last assured me that she really 
liked me. Pure Kafka, my being railroaded 
into saying thank you to all three. Instead I 
asked about references, keeping my tears 
to myself. Of course they'd be happy to put 
in a good word for me... 

How well they appeased their conscien- 
ces, these nonaggressive, politically cor- 
rect bosses of mine. And how efficiently 
they coddled their vanity and protected Big 
Daddy's inordinately large piece of the pie 
all at once. Niceness Control had me 
hamstrung. My bosses used our confi- 

dences about lovers and children, our 
sharing of recipes and tampons, to further 
patriarchal business prerogatives. They 
had exploited female solidarity to hide 
their betrayal of it, but my exposing them 
would have only made me the traitor, the 
myth exploder. The perfect alibi, niceness 
had silenced me altogether. In the interest 
of a dignified exit I was left understanding, 
sympathizing, submitting, i.e., playing the 
traditional woman to women playing 
patriarchs in drag. 

Competence and productivity matter 
very little in the office. But to exceed your 
job description or ignore its implicit agenda 
of deference is to blaspheme hierarchy, 
and this will get you fired first. Too much 
office work is little more than ritualized 
recordkeeping, a religion of procedures 
and protocol. It circumscribes a place for 
those who do it, and that place is under- 
neath. Above are the managers whose fief- 
doms are expanded by the proliferation of 
boring, repetitive, data-handling tasks. 

Twice these managers have tossed me in 
the incinerator. In the first case I was a 
reckless little colt fresh out of school, but in 
the second I'd been in harness for years. 
To be put out to pasture a third time 
portends the glue factory if I can't get used 
to the whip, so it's with a suspicious eye 
that I scrutinize my prospective employers 

-by Florence Bums 



graphic by The Big Mud Duck 

fwas on the third floor of the Cannery where a new 
Charley Brown's restaurant was opening. I had 
come on a lark and didn't expect even to fill out 
an application for a waitress job, much less be inter- 
viewed. My fellow applicants looked more experienced. 
"Are you a good salesperson?" he asked in a very 
disinterested, disdainfully bored manner. "I can be," I 
answered meekly, thinking that I wanted out of there. 

Also, it was already clear that Mr. Arrogant Dining 
Room Manager and I were not exactly hitting it off. Mr. 
Airogant left me feeling about two inches tall, so I 
couldn't believe it when I was scheduled for a second 
interview with the general manager. My beefed-up 
waitress experience must have been convincing after 
all. The second interview went much better, and I was 
asked to return that coming Saturday at 1 pm with two 
legal-size self-addressed stamped envelopes. "Can you 
handle that?" he asked. 

When I arrived it was clear that I had been hired. The 
first speech was from the head of operations for 
Northern California, who said: "You should congratu- 
late yourselves for being among the 110 or so people 
chosen out of about 1200 applicants." He made it clear 
that it was an honor to be chosen as food servers, 
hostesses, busboys or cooks by Charley Brown's 
Restaurant, and stressed that the company had gone to 
a lot of trouble and expense to fly up a team of trainers 
from Southern California to provide us with a week of 

intensive orientation. We were then handed our 
training schedule and uniform requirements. Training 
would last for four days, 10 am-6 pm, with one day off 
in between. "You'll need that day off to rest," he 
smiled ominously. I scanned the uniform requirements 
for food servers: black A-line skirt, white button-down 
oxford shirt, black leather pumps with a ^V2 inch 
minimum heel. An apron and a tie would be supplied by 
the restaurant. 

I wasn't, however, prepared for the training. From 
the moment we arrived for our first day of training until 
we left at night we were kept so busy we barely had 
time to breathe, let alone go to the bathroom. I soon 
came to feel as though we were being indoctrinated into 
some bizarre cult. 

Our Teflon Trainers had personalities that combined 
those of a stereotypical cheerleader and an army drill 
sergeant. They were slick, hard, and so rah-rah 
enthusiastic about Charley Brown's that I became 
suspicious. We were promptly divided into teams, each 
with a trainer as its captain. Scores were kept for each 
of the many tests and games. In our first huddle we 
were made to come up with names for our teams. "The 
Prime Cut Pranksters," "The Waitrons" or "The 
Dreamboats" were what they had in mind. Our captain 
a woman named Malory, gushed about how much she 
loved working for Charley Brown's and how much 
money she made. She also mumbled something about 



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employee softball games and parties. She 
was trying to convince us that woricing for 
Charley Brown's would be like belonging 
to some big happy family. 

At our first lecture we were presented 
with Charley Brown's bible, a 70-page food 
server manual which we were to study 
faithfully, along with another 20 pages of 
handouts. The manual covered everything 
from detailed personal appearance stan- 
dards, to portion sizes and all the brands of 
liquor sold at CB's, to the words of CB's 
birthday songs. Under personal ap- 
pearance standards were listed the fol- 
lowing commandments: Personal Hygiene 
— "Bathe or shower and use deodorant 
daily; brush teeth regularly"; Nails — 
"Nails well manicured, medium length; 
nail polish may be any shade of medium 
red or pink frosted or unfrosted. May not 
wear exotic shades of green, purple, 
sparkled, flowered, etc."; Jewelry — "One 
small ring per hand to be worn on ring 
finger only." And let's not forget Under- 
garments — "White or nude color only, 
style to complement outfit, undergarments 
must be worn!" 

The rest of the day was a whirlwind of 
activity. We viewed slides of all the entrees 
and appetizers and were told to memorize 
all the prices, codes, ingredients, methods 
of preparation, portions and appropriate 
garnishes. The presentation was given by 
Anna, director of Sales and Service. I 
promptly developed an aversion to Anna, 
who was always unnaturally and impec- 
cably coiffed and color-coordinated from 
her head to her pointy patent leather high 
heels. She batted her heavily shadowed 
eyes and opened them wide whenever 
anyone asked her a question — a perfect 
little kewpie doll. 

The day also included a rather terrifying 
relay race in which we had to carry loaded 
food serving trays and cocktail trays, a 
lecture on company benefits, and a bizarre 

speech on "Sanitation as a Way of Life." 
The grand finale was a contest over which 
team could sing Charley Brown birthday 
songs the "best," i.e. the most enthus- 
iastically. Songs were sung to the tunes of 
"Hey Big Spender" and "Baby Face," 
and had lyrics like: "Here at Charley's we 
always say Celebrate, you really rate, and 
have a great birthday!" 

At the end of the first day we were told 
what to study for the test the following 
morning. The list was long; 1 felt as if 1 
were back in college as 1 stayed up until 
3:30 a.m. cramming codes, prices, portions 
and ingredients. 

The next two days again brought a 
dizzying number of things to learn. There 
were lessons in writing guest checks and 
obtaining credit card authorization on the 
computer, a video on wine serving and 
selling, a wine bottle-opening session and 
instruction on everything to do with the 
bar. 1 discovered that we were to be cock- 
tail waitresses, too. To top it all off there 
was a cash and carry system; we were 
responsible for all the money. At the end of 
each evening we were required to fill out a 
very long and complicated accountability 
sheet, and of course any shortages would 
come out of our own pockets. 

Throughout the training we were 
instructed in "Charley Brown's Sequence 
of Service." Everything we were to do or 
say was programmed from the moment the 
patrons sat down. Into this program we 
were expected to insert our own "persona- 
lity" and be friendly and enthusiastic. The 
motto was: "No silent service." Every- 
thing placed on the table had to be intro- 
duced; for example: "Your hot sourdough 
bread, Sir!" When customers gave us an 
order we were to compliment them with an 
enthusiastic "Excellent choice!" or 
"Great!" In fact, "Great!" was the most 
frequently used word among the trainers at 
Charley Brown's. We were also taught 

never to ask: "How would you like your 
meat prepared?" The word "meat" was 
too open to "loose" interpretation accord- 
ing to our team captain, who confided: "I 
have a very dirty mind, and if someone 
asked me how 1 wanted my meat pre- 

Meanwhile, throughout each day's 
training, the only break was a half hour for 
cold sandwiches, which we lined up for and 

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ate together. The only really enjoyable part 
of the training came when we got to sample 
all the desserts served at the restaurant. 
The rest of the experience was painful and 
tension-producing. At first the group 
seemed to have some awareness that the 
training experience was, as one fellow 
commented, "like joining the Moonies." 
But soon many trainees seemed to have 
swallowed the Charley Brown line; some 
were even getting chummy with our 
trainers. I imagined them becoming clones 
of the clones. They would start talking 
alike, dressing alike, acting alike, thinking 
alike. Horrors! Would I too start incor- 
porating Charley Brown vocabulary into 
my speech, saying "Great!" and referring 
to a drink or food item as a "puppy?" 
Would I start wearing shiny patent leather 
high heels that hurt my little "tootsies" and 
so much make-up on my eyes that I would 
have to bat them to keep them open? Did I 
want co-workers like Gary, a tall, blond, 
slick-looking Southern California type who 
didn't have an ounce of warmth or com- 
passion in his steel-grey eyes, only utter 
boredom and emptiness? 

On the last day of training I was ready 
with my new uniform ($75 for shirt and 
shoes alone). The only thing I didn't have 

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was motivation. Still, I thought I would try 
it for a couple of days, for curiosity's sake. 

However, when I walked in that morning 
I was called into the general manager's 
office. Somehow I knew what was coming. 
They told me I was being terminated 
because I didn't "fit in" and mumbled 
something about test performance, al- 
though I had done well on all the tests. 
They handed me my pay for the past three 
days and asked for the apron and the tie. 
"Good luck," said Mr. Dining Room 
Manager. "Good luck to you," I said with 
all the civility I could muster. Suddenly my 
head was spinning. "Try to have a nice 
day," he said. I felt as if I might cry if I 
tried to say anything else. It was the indig- 
nity of the thing, and the shock. I had never 
been fired before. I had barely made 
enough money to cover the cost of the high 
heels and the shirt. 

As I left the office and walked out of the 
dining room filled with my former 
co-workers taking their daily training 
exam, I suddenly started feeling better. I 
walked outside into the brilliant sunshine 
with the sapphire blue bay as backdrop, 
feeling wonderfully free. I decided I was 
going to have a great day after all. 

— by Lucille Brown 


Sliding tongue along envelope 
minding business 
until the skin splits 



yr raging glory from 
a basement of crates 

cream puffs combing the 
streets for their cream 

the speeding hawaiian 
in a boring belt of dogs 

lets argue the virtues 
of our 3 fave saints. 

& seethegeel<urngo 
& see the bleak burn slow 

piled up plates swivel hips 
caved in faces & a moon that dips 

gimme yr tan lines yr 
football teams washed ashore 

the giggling hordes dragging 
their feet, horsepower & g-strings 

what was it that choked the river 
& dented the 127th revival tent 

Public Poetry #Roundabout 12 

Termination Talk 
Fired today — 

Broke Flat, Q ^ 

No tamale. 

Linda Thomas 

& those who strafe so self righteously 
fumbling for tradition & tyrants in cement 

By Bart Plantenga 


I think ril tour 

The Free Trade Zones 

Of Asia, 

And entertain 

The robots 

By telling 

Human jokes. 

S. Badrich 



/'T^ II jobs are 

I ti I "^'^^^ fortur 
^B^such thing 

temporary. That's a lesson that I've 
mate to learn early in life; there's no 
ing as a 'permanent' job. I never could 
understand the need to make distinctions between 
"permanent" and "temporary" job situations. 

I lost my first job at age 16 due to an attitude clash 
with new management. I wasn't willing to give them all 
the respect they deserved, and didn't help things one 
day when the brand-new manager had just finished 
covering a wall with tacky "wood" paneling, and I 
came walking through and asked, "What's that?" He 
said, "What do you think it looks like?", and I said, "I 
think it looks like shit." 

My worst job experiences were in food handling, and 
I've never escaped any of them on my own prompting. 
When the manager at McDonald's fired me, he said, 
"You're a good worker, but you just don't fit the 
McDonald's image." I lasted 4 days bussing tables at a 
suburban Chinese restaurant before the owner handed 
me $50 in cash and told me to beat it. 

During a disastrous weeklong stint at the SF State 
dorm cafeteria, I arrived at 11;00 instead of 10:00 one 
morning, and sneaked into the basement to avoid my 
boss, slip into my uniform and pretend I'd been there 
working the whole time. Who did I run into downstairs 
but my asshole boss, who shocked me by asking, 
"What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be 
here until 3:00!" I never ran out of any place so fast as I 
did at that moment. It was the kindly manager of a 
24-hour breakfast place called Waffle House (which we 
affectionately dubbed the "Awful Waffle") who did me 
a favor when he fired me by strongly suggesting that I 
try something other than restaurant work for a living. 



NOW, Ajfj 


A few weeks after my high school graduation, I was 
enticed by a classified ad promising "Travel! 
Adventure! Excitement!" That same day I found 
myself on a Greyhound to Chicago, with two suitcases 
packed, anticipating a whole summer's worth of travel, 
adventure and excitement. I didn't find out until I got 
there that I had been seduced by one of those door-to- 
door magazine subscription scams. I was booked for a 
2-week training/probationary period, during which I 
wouldn't make anything except maybe a bonus for 
reaching quota. My hotel expenses were covered, and I 
got ten dollars a day for meals. 

We were all trained, or should i say brainwashed, in 
the art of sales; in rebuffing the questions of even the 
most skeptical residents. If they say, "Oh, I tried this 
sort of thing before and got ripped off," we would tell 
them that of course that was some other company, blah, 
blah, blah. 

It was like a Moonie brainwashing retreat. We slept 
four to a hotel room, trainer and trainee in the same 
room. Basically we were all together 24 hours a day, 
except, of course, for the 15 hours in the "field." I was 
expected to spend all my free time with the veteran 
salesmen selling me on what a great life it was; the 
money, the freedom, the wild parties, getting laid, etc. 

Fortunately I made a friend there, a young woman 
from Indianapolis who was also a rookie. We would 


sneak out of the hotel between "structured 
activities," smoke joints, and plot our es- 
capes. She managed it a few days before I 
did, and took the Greyhound back to 
Indianapolis. 1 was very blue after she left, 
and any traces of enthusiasm I'd had 
vanished fast, baring my disillusionment. 

Out in the "field" I began to identify with 
the skeptics I was supposedly trying to win 
over, and it dawned on me that, yes, it 
probably was this company that had ripped 
them off; no wonder the owner-boss, 
Sibiski, was able to retire at 33\ But what 
really did my attitude in was a morning in 
which I made one of the day's first sales. 
The customer invited me in for some 
coffee, and later we smoked a joint so 
strong that I wandered around high the 
rest of the day. I had stayed listening to 
records with her for an hour and a half, and 
couldn't possibly sell another subscription. 

The next morning I woke up earlier than 
usual and surprised Steve, my trainer, by 
slipping into my old blue jeans and a 
t-shirt. He asked me what I was doing, and 
I said I was getting out of here. He said I 
had to call Sibiski and tell him, which I did. 
But I hung up on Sibiski after he started 
cussing a blue streak at me about owing 
him for hotel and meal expenses, and 
daring to leave before my 2-week training/ 
probationary period was over. Nonchalant, 
I finished packing my bags, walked down 
the hallway with Steve, and waited by the 
exit while he went inside Sibiski's room to 
calm him down. I listened to the room roar 
and shake for about 5 minutes, and then 
Steve emerged, visibly shaken, and said, 
"Just split, man!" 

In the parking lot I ran into Jim, one of 
the veteran salespeople, who just couldn't 
believe I was leaving, and threw his best 
sales pitch to change my mind. "Forget 
about college, man. You'll have more fun 
doing this. Man, when I was a rookie here I 
hated it and packed my bags every day for 

a solid month. But now I'm glad I stayed 
because I love it!" And 1 thought, "Yeah, 
stupid, you stayed just long enough to get 
completely brainwashed!", and kept 
walking, and found the spaghetti mess of 
freeway connections back eventually to 
Indianapolis. That day I also learned an 
important lesson for the first and last time: 
never hitchhike with two suitcases. I 
almost didn't think my arms were going to 
make it! 

During a long hand-to-mouth period in 
San Francisco, during which I procured 
food stamps, tried to get G.A., and was too 
desperately broke to really relax with 
being unemployed (this was when an un- 
employment benefit scam would have 
been nice), but I did use the time well. It 
was around this same time that I got 
involved with Processed World, and the 
extra time certainly came in handy to help 
with production. The state Employment 
Development Department's job coun- 
selors, who are supposed to give us more 
access to information on all the shit jobs 
out there, arranged for me to interview at 
the Leiand Hotel on Polk Street, where I 
was hired as a graveyard-shift desk clerk 
for a paltry $3.50/hour. Roughly a third of 
the residents were older folks who had 
been there, paying rent faithfully, for 
years. Another third were transients. And 
a third were young adults, attracted to the 
Polk Street nightlife, many of them worked 
as prostitutes (both male and female), and 
it was these late-night people I got to know 
the best. Often they would invite me to 
their rooms to party in the morning after 
my shift was over. It was an interesting 
window on the world. 

I'm a late-night person. I get my best 
work and best thinking done after 
midnight. I do love mornings but only if I 
can spend them at the kitchen table, with 
more than one cup of coffee and an 
interesting conversation. I don't function 
well when my morning belongs to an 

It took me weeks, however, to adjust to 
my new schedule, but as soon as I had I 
was fired for showing that I was more sym- 
pathetic to the tenants than desk clerks 
were supposed to be. We were only 
expected to take their rent money, 
dispense clean linen, and make wake-up 
calls. Still I was surprised that I hadn't been 
fired sooner. 

A week earlier I had had a major run-in 
with my supervisor, who came in to relieve 
me at 7 AM. He started bitching at me for 
an insignificant transgression I can't even 
remember now. He only needed to mention 
it once but wouldn't let up about it. It 
didn't help that I was sick. I went straight 
home and slept until about 10:30 PM, when 
I had to get up, order a take-out sandwich 
and salad and ride the bus to work. When 
I showed up for my shift at 1 1 :00, the same 
supervisor was there, drunk, and he 
started raving about the same stupid shit 

he'd already given me hell for that 
morning. I warned him that I was in no 
mood to endure it, but he ignored me. I got 
mad, and as I grabbed my salad I was 
thinking, I don't even care that there are 
other people in the lobby or if I get fired, 
and I yelled "Shut the fuck up!" and 
heaved the salad at him. Perfectly, 1 might 
add, so that the dressing ran all over his 
splendidly manicured beard and expensive 
perm, all over his open shirt, gold chains, 
and hairy chest. The funniest thing, aside 
from seeing him covered with dressing, 
was that he didn't fire me right then and 
there. He looked dazed for a few moments, 
and then apologized for being such an 
asshole. After that, until I was fired, he 
was always real nice to me. 

After losing the hotel job, I decided to 
enter the temp world. The next several 
months were a kaleidoscope of numbing, 
unbearable days, and sabotage at every 
opportunity. 1 was sort of unique among 
the Processed World collective, because I 
started doing office work after becoming 
involved with the magazine. And I 
sometimes got into trouble for mixing the 
contents of PW with life (?) on the job. 

I was always being let go without a 
specific reason. It was frustrating that the 
hiring and firing hierarchy could have the 
power to dispose of me and not tell me the 
truth about why they were doing it; and I 
would always be left wondering, "Did they 

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really mean it when they said they had too 
many people, or was it because they saw 
the sticker 1 put up in the bathroom and 
suspected me?" I could never tell. Most 
supervisors are chickenshit when it comes 
to letting people go; they do whatever they 
can to avoid controversy and open resent- 
ment. I hate those kinds of bloodless 
purges. I always preferred the situations 
when I was at least given a reason for being 
fired. Especially if the supervisor or boss 
was noticeably upset about something that 
I did; I would feel a sense of accomplish- 
ment. The next job was like that. 

I'm the only person I know to actually be 
fired from a temporary agency. I got away 
with a lot, however, before it caught up 
with me. 

At Macy's executive personnel office I 
stuffed gray pinstripe folders titled "The 
Macy's Management Career Training 
Program" with various brochures. They 
were then packaged up and shipped off to 
college seniors majoring in business. A few 
hours into the job I noticed that the folders 
were simply packed without further inspec- 
tion and got a great idea. I raced home at 
lunchtime and grabbed a big stack of 
Processed World brochures, which I 
secretly stuffed into the rest of the folders. 
I delighted in watching them be packed up 
for their destinations. 

With the same agency's help, I got to 
sabotage Wells Fargo Bank. Although 1 
had stormed through countless modern, 
partitioned offices in my bike messenger 
days, I'd never actually been stuck in one. I 
seriously thought I was losing my mind 
until I discovered the xerox machine. 

It wasn't clear whose flunky I was, so 
many supervisors brought me their extra 
work, and I would take advantage of the 
confusion by selecting only the most 

palatable assignments. One of these was a 
lengthy prospectus that had to be copied 
and collated hundreds of times, which 
made the xerox machine pretty much my 
domain that week. 1 did my best to drag the 
project out in order to recreate hundreds of 
rare issues of PW. How my heart would 
pound when the machine had jammed up 
inside with PW copy, and I'd hurriedly pull 
it out, with the Wells Fargo prospectus 
concealing more bootleg material on top of 
the machine! Fortunately no-one ever 
caught me with the machine jammed up on 

I never felt bad about using Wells 
Fargo's paper and time to benefit PW. 
Once, in this same office, I had been on an 
assembly line of temps stuffing 9,000 large 
envelopes. We were finally finishing up 
when a supervisor appeared and an- 
nounced that we had to unstuff all 9,000 
envelopes because the signature on the 
cover letter wasn't bold enough! Otherwise 
the replacement was exactly the same! I 
remember staring in amazement as a 
custodian carted off a 4-foot stack of the old 
letter to the dump. I figured I must be 
doing Wells Fargo a favor by actually 
putting some of their paper to good use. 

Two weeks later I was back at the same 
office helping assemble a prospectus for 
Wells Fargo employees on leave. Having 
been asked to xerox about 300 copies of the 
cover letter, on the way to the familiar copy 
machine, I stopped at my desk to find 
something I could copy on the other side of 
the letter. I chose the "Office Workers 
Olympics" from PW #2, and we temps 
spent the rest of the afternoon stuffing the 
"improved" cover letter into envelopes. 

I was much less secretive than usual on 
this occasion, and my co-workers res- 
ponded coolly, which concerned me. It's 

possible that one of them finked on me, but 
1 didn't hear a thing about it until I phoned 
the agency to see about getting more work. 
My "counselor" seemed upset and said, 
"We have reports from Wells Fargo that 
last Friday you were photocopying your 
own material and including it with the 
mailing. Did you do that?" 

Realizing my cover was blown, I said. 
"Yes, that's true." When she asked why, I 
replied, "It was fun!" 

"Well, your 'fun' cost both our 
companies a lot of money because we had 
to hire three temps the next day to undo 
your work." ("Wow, three temps!" I 
thought, feeling proud.) "I'm afraid we 
can't trust you on any more jobs, so I have 
to fire you! 

Another, smaller agency I'd registered 
with invited me to the company Xmas party 
even though they hadn't assigned me to 
any jobs yet. I showed up at the party, got 
pleasantly drunk, and found not only many 
of the temps interesting but even some of 
the agency managers. And of course I 
brought along a bunch of Processed 
Worlds and gave out several to the temps. 
Some of the managers bought them 
because they looked interesting, including 
my "counselor" who was sympathetic to 
me despite my dismal typing test score. 
Several weeks later I ran into her on 
Market Street at lunchtime while hawking 
PW in costume. She was wearing a gray 
coat and looked cold, turning a shade 
grayer when she saw me. I walked up to 
her and asked happily if she liked the 
magazine. She looked terrified and said, 
"It's horrible!", and moved quickly past 

— by Zoe Noe 

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fe would rather 'tailor' a person to 
the loop, than leave the ones and 
" zeroes to their own devices," said 
the Coordinator of Technical Services, 
carefully choosing his words. "We must 
get away from the tyranny of paper, and its 
attendant security problems. If this means 
the marriage of the employee to the 
machine, then so be it. The Human 
Resources Committee has formulated its 
decision matrix, based on your recommen- 

Wcintrager grinned inwardly. For years 
he had felt locked in a static career lattice, 
overseeing the Cybernix Control unit of a 
discrete government agency. Now his subtle calculations were 
coming to fruition. A new path was in the offing, his career 
destiny on the rise. 

The Coordinator continued. "Quite a well thought-out idea 
package. The information Reserve has, as you know, been trying 
for years to staunch the leak — more accurately, hemorrhage — of 
data relating to our manipulations of the media. So long as the 
public is aware of our role as more than a simple regulatory 
organ of information, we cannot effectively program their 
understanding of the world." 

"It won't take them long to forget, once we've ruggedized our 
work force." said Wcintrager softly. It pleased him to imagine a 
cap on all those unauthorized transmissions. 

"You wish to begin with the key operator in the CPD Division? 
I understand you've already brought d-termination proceedings 
against her. Would that not tend to conscientize her against the 

"For that reason, it's been a very delicate process," Wcin- 
trager explained. "I've brought in support staff over the last 
couple of weeks to help during the erpployee's down time to try 

to neutralize the trauma, and ease the pain 
of separation. They have helped her 
through periods of ventilation, mourning, 
and burial of this lost position. She is under 
the impression she is being riffed — that is, 
part of a Reduction In Force — and that she 
ifo — Last In First Out — with no blame 
attached. She will, if she accepts our new 
proposal, return to the Center for Public 
Debt, under terms in which she will have to upgrade her 
physique to fit the new qualifications. To perform at the raised 
level of expectation will require she have digital connections 
made to electrosensitize, reconfigure her nerve endings. The 
modifications will include input/output bundles for dedicated 
recreation, which she will be able to run on a separate track while 
the primary work load is executed automatically by the core 
system, with minimal need for worker awareness. The system is 

"It represents a new level of freedom and empowerment for 
the employee through ganglia amplification, refinement of the 
body's electro-chemical transmissions along lines we devise 
which largely bypass the cul-de-sac of human consciousness. 
Our strategy is to wait till the final analysis, which comes in the 
exit interview; the employee will then be presented with this 
option to abort their dismissal. The trick is to show them it's not 
the end of the world." 

"Which it is, in a manner of speaking." The Coordinator 
smiled. "And the beginning of a new one. The employee has yet 
to realize that he or she is now working in a world where Total 



Management is able to terminate at will 
that part of them which hinders the job 
mission. Do you really think they'll accept 
this contingency exchange of yours?" 

"Not all. We've factored in for an 
acceptable level of avoidance failure. We 
can always hire replacements, using 
tightened background filtration, which can 
screen external candidates at the cellular 
level. With samples of their RNA on tap, 
we should be able to hire only those with 
the requisite receptivity. 

"Where the carefully choreographed 
dissimulation succeeds with our incum- 
bents, I think we can expect a greater 
malleability than with those new applicants 
we accept, who have not been through our 
tenderizing routines. This salvage will 
simplify reconditioning, before we even 
install the neural adaptors. And, if it's 
handled right, we should be able to 
engender a sense of gratitude and renewed 
loyalty for this employment reprieve, a rare 
opportunity to join hands and be on the 
cutting edge of a new and exciting 
improvement over their natural abilities." 
Weintrager spoke with the zeal of one who 
has pared down the possibilities to arrive at 
truth, a naked singularity. 

The Coordinator was similarly self- 
assured. "We shall see. The reality is: in a 
time of superfluous populations, personnel 
can and will accommodate the legitimate 
desire of management for high-precision, 
customized performance. This sort of bio- 
logical streamlining is an eminently prac- 
tical innovation worth developing." 


in a chest pane: terms of enhancement 

The exit interview was in fact an introit 
to conceptual hell. Victorrhea saw through 
Weintrager's language of annihilation. She 

BACKWORDS LOGIC b>, Aci^BacicMords 


lipe: turn out to 
se: such a 


wondered why she didn't just stand up and 
leave the sucker room. 

Simple: she had worked long and hard to 
establish a profile that was considered cool 
and collected, and most of all, cooperative. 
She had seen too many friends strike out in 
this game of survival, condemned to live 
forever on edge. For all her principles and 
ideals, she recognized certain rules of the 
jungle. One is that while there may be 
freedom on the margins, everything is 
relative; to really stake a claim in a world 
grown this psychologically small requires a 
chameolonic transparency — or extraordi- 
nary good luck. She didn't care to gamble. 

But those fuckers were after more than 
her body, the voluntary part in which she 
rode the seat of intelligence each day, at 
her station from 8 to 5. Nor were ap- 
pearances any longer the thing; now they 
were after her autonomic nervous system, 
ferChrissake, under the guise of a 

Weintrager had some nerve. He wanted 
her to believe that They could build her 
better. "In your work, it's very formal: the 
gestures are corrected, repeated, and 
rehearsed. Some people are afraid in the 
beginning, because it means ceding a part 
of their physical inheritance. But counting 
numbers and keeping time is a terrible 
waste for creatures of our sophistication. 
We can measure the energy and tolerances 
needed for given tasks. We can reorganize 
and amplify the skills and abilities of 
individual cells — these small bits of being 
were made to serve you; they can be im- 
proved in numerous respects to serve you 
as Nature could never have imagined. It 
will free your mind, rendering you unique- 
ly qualified to take on the world of 

"What better cure for invisibility, than 
to be in the new wave of personal n-hance- 
ment? Once you are hooked up, you will 
adjust to a new level of facility in our 
electronic environment; you can do so 
many of the mechanical things that 
presently take needless toll on your 
thoughts — your imagination — without so 
much to think, you will be free to think of 
other things." 

Weintrager's eyes were screen deep, 
flashed her thoughts back through a forest 
of hypertrophic cursors, to her machine in 
CPD. She had always wondered when the 
much feared Debt Squad, with scrambler 
face plates, would come, automatics 
levelled, to collect her share of the Public 
Debt. If she came up short, she could see 
them twitching a few knobs on their porta- 
packs, then punching a hole in her chest, 
where they'd install a smartcard to monitor 
and broadcast her role in the State of 
Things. It would make no difference 
whether she was part of the problem or 
final solution — she had to live their 
question, even if that meant terminal 
absorbtion. So she had always hoped to 
elude their harsh, relentless scrutiny 

through proximal visibility as an insider. 
Last in first out, Weintrager told her. 

Her blood ran colder than the air 
conditioning. So, too, it was the end of the 
century; what did she care for sensation? 
Too many bodies out there in the world, too 
much noise with them rubbing up against 
each other. The press of flesh in a dry fuck, 
a command performance in the brownian 
motion of rush hour at war in the morning. 
She wore one way lenses to protect her 
from i-contact. Some days, nervetheless 
she still woke to feel a slight corneal 
abrasion. The residue of dreams left a 
callus of impressions. 

Was flesh worth the future? Knowledge 
could be a sore temptation, considering 
these new vistas of light and shadow. 
Before taking the job at the Information 
Reserve, Victorrhea had been impatient, 
nay, filled with hatred for the serpent 
tourniquet on the media. She wanted to 
know what was withheld by the organs of 

A little stealthy research identified the 
source of suppression as a low-profile info- 
processing agency, which seemed to be a 
budget dump for an evasive Senate sub- 
committee, well out of the public eye. She 
decided to infiltrate through an entry level 
position, deflectors on full, protective 
coloration set to drab; she took the oath 
and plunged through a flickering tube to 

Having long hardened her eyes to an 
alphabet of atrocity — ABC broadcasts, 
CAL-OSHA coverups, ZARP and its 
successors — she kept her m-motions under 
a bushel of watchful silence. There was 
considerable surface tension to keeping a 
blithe, uncaring demeanor, a face in the 
crowd. She very much doubted, when she 
signed on board CPD, that it would be too 
much of a strain on her youthful resilience. 

What she encountered took all the spring 
out of her step. The immuno-resistors 
came up, and she was able to release her 
breath. But how many more gasps could 
she afford? Her info- mania would make her 
an easy mark. What she mistook for 
nourishment, in this day of machine 
dreams, was perhaps mere exposure to the 
harsh rays of reality. There was a fine line 
where lies begin; it made the fear of 
dismissal a sort of junk nightmare. She saw 
death in exile from her phosphordot screen 
of vision. What worried her most was the 
thought it could become a two way glass. 

After leaving her to shake a while, 
Weintrager had called her in for one of 
those proverbial offers difficult to refuse: 
eyes in electrodes to hone her resolution. 

The System's giving you a raw deal, it 
railed inside, till her ribs began to show. 
She remembered when she was a volunteer 
at a cerebral palsy clinic, what the 
handicapped used to call her: TAB: tem- 
porarily able bodied. 

"Tailoring to the position" was no more 
radical than yielding the spiritual realm to 



churches and mosques. It might even be a 
kind of evolution, albeit state of the art. 

"We're talking about freedom here in 
the making," Weintrager went smoothly 
on. "A new world can be built around your 
dreams; we can bring them out in our 
mind-screen interface, creating a comfort 
zone that is uniquely your own." 

Victorrhea remembered an odd bit of 
electronic graffiti that had scrolled across 
her screen when she just started in CPD. It 
seemed relevant to her now. 




hither & yon woke to 

bee stings a breath 

syringes damp burlap 

bleed pressures 

from the head 


a chest of 


Fried Egg 

glaze of swollen 
seconds eyes false 
sandpaper teeth on anodized 
dry lips steel links 

Futile • 

I will not be pushed, filed, 
stamped, indexed, briefed 
debl-iefed, or numbered. 

My life is my own; 
I.... I.... 

aye. ..aye... 

. The Prisoner • 

Later, she thought to strip time down to 
its essentials, in the form of a calendar of 
cruelty, or "the daze of the weak." It had 
only five days — years were without 
weekends, as was only natural. 

On reflection, it appeared the Info 
Reserve proposed to cut through the web of 
carnal inefficiency -give back more than 
just the night. It wasn't just the moon they 
promised this time, but the sun to boot. 
High on a horse, rearing in ecstasy, she 
could drink the nervous light of insight in a 
blakean frenzy. 

Meanwhile, in a darkened room, with a 

screen of many windows open behind her 
eyes, she would channel the violence of 
ennui across a liquid sea of variable 
density. Back to back with heightened 
efficiency were the trodden hopes for 
severing routine, green fatique. It was a 
challenge she could just as easily choose as 

-by D.S. Black 

uosuBMS ur AQ smdejo 




Lie — Go Ahead 5 squares 
Tell Truth — Go Back 1 square 


3957 Peoplein Line 



Lose $50 — Go back 3 squares. 


Resist — Got)ack4sqL 

Givein — GotoHiri 










Salary up2level$, goto 

You're Hired 


1 salary levpl; cancel warnings 

Next turn rol I and go to square #23 









Union Busted (if any) 









Transform Daily Life 






Bus is Late 


1 warning 

Odd #— Move torwa 


Even #— Move backw 

r ^M^ 

that#of squares 




.-1 ./ 



1 Warning 



Tough Luck— Gotounemployment 


Boss hasn'tbeen paying 

unemployment Insurance, though 



V > 


Miss 1 turn from exhaustion 



1 Warning 



Stay home to nurse th 
You're Fired! 








Yougo— loseSturns 
You don ' t — unemployment office 



Massive Overtime 



You Escape Board 





in secret computerfile 

1 warning 



The Fascinating Maze of 
A Game That Lasts A Lifetime! 





Odd # Go Forward 

Even # Go Back 

that number of squares 





1 or3, you win— extra turn&araise 



(go to square #1) 




You Give It 

Odd#— Nothing Happens 
Even#— Fired Again! 



ROLLDICE'reahero— extra turn 


nothing happens 

4or6, Mafia breal<s your legs 



A New Job? 

Go to Square #8 
or Stay With This Job 

Cancel all warnings 
Get a Raise 


You love it. 
You're Fired! 
Goto Temping. 


Free Lunch! 
Take an extra turn 

Youare the Assistant Chief to 

theChief Assistantto 

thechief AssistantChief. 

You can'tgo back. 


You'reChief Assistantto 

Automatic Salary Increase 

You Never Move Again! 


Odd # — Move forward 6 squares 
Even #- Go to Square (62:' 






ComputerTriples Your Salary 

Collect NewSalaryS 
an extra turn 


Stay put 2 turns. 

Not included but Mandatory 

• Dress Clothes, 1 dice. 

• Monopoly money, tokens. 

• A sheet of paper, pen. 
OBJECT: To escape wage labor. 

TO WIN: Inherit money or social revolution 

TO LOSE: Dead End Job, Breakdown, Bankrupt for 2 turns 

Each player starts with $500 wage every 4 turns once hired. 

You have $200 on hand to start the game. 

Everybody Starts at Square #1 . In counter-clockwise order, 

each player rollsadiceand moves that#of squares. Follow the 

instructions (if any) on it. 

You may not move from a higher # square to a lower # square 

except in #33 & #40. 

From square #23 you may only go to #24, #25, etc. 

If you pass Square #8, you are automatically hired. 
Squares 1-7, spend $20 a turn. 

TEMPING — Your income = expenses. 

No spending needed. 
UNEMPLOYMENT - You spend $10 a turn. 

Keep track of your money, warnings and salary on a piece of 


Of course, money from wages will never help ^win— only 


3 Warnings = You'rTRred! 















-f- ' 





Collect Salary 
Mark time forSturns, 


















in the "Clean Room" 


In cramped change rooms, they enjoy their last 
casual chatter before the crescendo. They snap 
on vinyl surgeon's gloves and don white and pale- 
blue dacron: hoods, jump suits, veils, and booties. As they 
shroud themselves in nearly identical bunny suits, the 
workers, or rather the images they present to one another, 
shed their distinctness. 

They walk through a narrow vestibule with a grey 
sticky mat on the floor. Abruptly, the crescendo begins 
its deafening ascent; they barely hear the stripping 
sound of the mat cleansing their soles. Along the 
vestibule walls, crooked plastic tentacle stumps fire a 
continuous fusilade of air at them, removing dust flecks 
and lint from the dacron. The roar submerges normal 
conversational tones — all but shouts and sharp sounds. 
Passing through the vestibule to the clean room or 
aisle, the workers take up positions to new tones at 
different pitches: the dissonant arpeggio of rapidly 
moving air and loudly humming machines. From the 
ceiling to the floor, the forced air of the laminar flow 
blows dust particles larger than quarter-widths of 
human hair. This protects the even smaller circuitry 
that blots the wafers. But the air flow merges 
acoustically with the dull whir of the processing 
equipment. The consequence of this merger is a 
cacophonous, low boom — a crescendo that peaks but 
never falls off. 

Above the crescendo, casual conversation is difficult 
and the distraction often dangerous. Their mouths 

gagged and faces veiled (often above the nose), phrases 

are muffled, expressions half-hidden. The customary 

thoroughfares of meaning and emotion are obscured. 

Do furrowed eyebrows indicate pleasure or problem? 

Like deep-sea divers, the workers use hand-gestures, 

or like oil riggers, they shout above the din created by 

the refrigerator-sized machines and the hushed roar of 

the laminar flow. But mainly, the crescendo encourages 

a feeling of isolation, of removal from the world. 

In any honest estimation, electronics production work 

must be counted among the most dangerous of 

occupations, though this statement might clash with 

the daily perceptions of workers and certainly with that 

of managers. By the late 70's, the occupational illness 

rate for semiconductor workers was over three times 

that of manufacturing workers; all electronics workers 

experienced job-related illnesses at twice the general 

manufacturing rate. Yet workers now are denied even 

these abstract reckonings of the dangers they face, 

thanks to a sleazy numbers-running operation by the 

semiconductor industry, and much winking by public 


By the early 80s, the industry simply changed the 

way it recorded injuries and illnesses. The result was a 

Vi's drop in the occupational illness rate. To this day, a 

rigged data collection system projects a safe picture of 

the clean room. At all levels, government agencies have 

supported this fiction by failing to investigate and 

refusing to enforce; not a single study of electronics 

workers' health has been completed All of this feeds a 



milieu of ignorance about clean room work 
that multiplies the dangers workers face. 

Difficult to detect, camouflaged by 
indistinct and time-released symptoms that 
afflict workers unevenly, the hazards of 
clean-room acids and gases are dismissed 
by most workers. Vigilance is uncommon 
(as if the decision to live and work near the 
San Andreas Fault, which promises one 
day to violently sever and collapse much of 
Silicon Valley, impairs sensitivity to 
danger.) A psychology of nonchalance 
emerges, encouraged by jammed produc- 
tion schedules, supported by a distracting 
focus on chip yield, and reinforced by the 
energy-sapping inertia of workplace ritual 
in a surreal environment. The cues that 
should alert one to danger instead bolster 

Gowning up in outfits that outwardly 
resemble protective clothing provides the 
vague sense that we are preparing 
ourselves for another environment, much 
like putting on boots, coat, and hat for a 
winter outing. But the bunny suits provide 
no protection from the chemicals; rather 
they protect the clean room from us — the 
invisible particles our bodies throw off with 
every slight movement. Yet more than 
once have I heard workers (and in one case, 
a manager) speak of the bunny suit as if it 
guarded against danger. 

The laminar flow of particle-cleansing air 
also imparts a false sense of safety. 
Laminar flow and particle filters are not 
designed to extract dangerous fumes, 
traces of which can circulate undetected for 
hours, especially in older fabrication areas. 
In some clean rooms, the forced air can 
"kick up" toxic fumes, spreading them 
outward and upward toward noses and 
eyes. Still, the sound and feel of flowing air 
lends a deceptive "cleanliness" to the 
ambience. The ambience is misleading in a 
distinctly modern way. 

In deference to the fragile wafers — 
rather than to the dangers that loom every- 
where — the workers move in eerily ca- 
denced motion that resembles the tentative 
movement of astronauts slightly free of 
gravity. Sudden movements raise eye- 
brows and suggest accidents. This 
restrained, unspontaneous motion is the 
preferred body language. It is a language 
not everyone can speak, and one which 
managers bear in mind when screening job 
applicants. They select women, dispro- 
portionately recent immigrants from Cen- 
tral America, the Pacific Rim, and Asia, for 
the most tedious clean room jobs. 

"Men as a group ao not do as well" at the 
lonely, detailed, and monotonous tasks, a 
male clean room manager confides. "I'm 
not talking about [women's] little fingers 
being more agile [than men's]. That's 
bullshit. But just the way our society trains 
women and the [lack of?] opportunities that 
they have, cause them to be more inwardly 
directed." The same manager applauds 

the suitability of maternal instincts to clean 
room work. "A lot of the dealing with 
children gets transferred to dealing with 
wafers: [the wafers become] 'my babies, 
be careful."' Perhaps these observations 
are less real than rationalization for 
management's primary attractions to 
women (low pay) and recent immigrants 
(gullibility). But a semblance of truth 
clings to this rationalization. 

The Latin and Asian countries from 
which so many clean room women hail are 
experiencing rapid, if uneven, moderni- 
zation. The comparison to middle-class 
American culture — the culture of perma- 
nent modernization — is not always a stark 
one. But by differences of degree, the more 
traditional Latin and Asian cultures 
impoverish a woman's expectations for 
herself, binding her more tightly to the 
world of child-rearing, housekeeping, 
subservience to men, and poverty-level 
wage labor. In its traditional or modern 
versions, it is a world that supports virtues 
esteemed by clean room managers: 
diligence to demanding work, humility 
before male authority (there are probably 
no female clean-room managers in the 
Valley), and a halting estimation of self- 
worth. The women earn between $4.50 and 
$10.00 per hour — pay that requires regular 
overtime, or other incomes, to constitute a 
living wage in Silicon Valley. Many of the 
women are not wise to the traditions of 
American wage labor and workplace 
rights. This is disadvantage enough. Some, 
however, suffer a special anxiety: they are 
here without immigration cards, and stand 
to lose everything on a moment's notice. 
They are the prisoners of a humbling 
sociology of approval. 

By dint of time, attention, and 
pampering, clean room work approaches 
that of a 24-hour nursery. For 6-7 days a 
week on 8-12 hour shifts around the clock, 
the women move gracefully from process to 
process, gently bearing cassettes or boats 
of delicate wafers from the photolithogra- 
phy of the steppers, to the arsine and 
chlorine doping of the ion implanters, to 
the acid baths and gas clouds of the wet 
and dry etchers. Even gloved hands are too 
rough for the brittle wafer; workers use 
vacuum wands, plastic tweezers, or custom 
pronged tools to "handle" them. Drilled 
by management in misplaced priorities, 
many women perceive the most demanding 
aspect of their work — wafer handling — as 
the most dangerous. This is because wafer 
accidents are not easily forgotten, by any- 

Stamped on each wafer are perhaps 40 to 
90 microchips. Workers learn quickly that 
the boat of 25 wafers they load and carry 
may represent thousands or hundreds of 
thousands of dollars. To most of the 
meagerly paid clean-room workers, that is 
like holding the world in your hands, which 
are soon putrifying in clammy surgical 

gloves. And the wafers must be loaded into 
the boats, carried, and unloaded often; 
each is resurfaced, doped and etched up to 
nine times, microscopically scrutinized 
more than once, tested, and back-plated 
with gold. Wafer handling requires a sharp 
burst of concentration and worry that 
punctuates a routine of machine-tending 
that even clean room managers characte- 
rize as "dull" and "boring." 

The pampering prevents accidents to the 
vulnerable wafers, but it abets fatigue, 
which many clean room workers relieve 
with nicotine. On breaks in company lunc- 
rooms they can be seen sitting together 
smoking cigarettes with almost tribal 
formality. "It's a ritual you can do quickly 
and yet it will allow you to relax," observes 
a clean room manager who doesn't smoke. 
But you cannot smoke inside a clean room , 
where you may be stuck for hours at a time. 
To cope with the tedium and frequent 
overtime, a few succumb to the allure of 
amphetamines, though these are not 
favored as they are on computer assembly 
lines, probably because 'speed' taxes 
patience too severely for clean room work. 

One of the most fatiguing and other- 
worldly tasks fall to those who sit atop 
stools and peer through German micro- 
scopes or into Japanese X-ray scanning 
screens. Through these portholes, they 
seek misalignments and the patterns of 
light, invisible to untrained eyes, that 
indicate scratches or particles on a wafer. 
Their discoveries may spell disaster for the 
company's chip yield and usually set in 
motion a micro-detective story. The 
investigation generates paranoia among 
workers who may be implicated, reas- 
signed to another shift, or laid off during a 
blind prevention — the closing down of the 
clean room until technicians determine the 
cause of the_y/eW bust. When the cause is 
detected, there is blame to assign, and 
temporary layoffs can become permanent. 
This is one reason yield figures are always 
on the minds and tongues of clean room 
workers, much in the way the latest stock 
market quotations preoccupy speculators. 

Other concerns cement the clean room's 
attention to yield. Yield figures are how 
clean-room managers gauge work per- 
formance, how vice-presidents gauge 
clean-room management, and finally, how 
The Board reckons its competitive rank in 
the heat of production. In pursuit of a 
quarterly quota or a new product release 
(often arbitrarily scribbled in a marketing 
plan to please The Board), clean room 
managers may set entire shifts against 
each other in competition for the best yield. 
A surprisingly good yield may precipitate 
bonuses, free lunches, or spontaneous 
celebration. It may even temporarily 
relieve tension in executive stomach 
linings, bowels, and necks. High or low, 
the yield functions as a barometer of 
pressure felt by all. it is a fickle arbiter of 



human fate and perhaps the most 
conscious common frame of reference in 
the clean room. Like the Sirens' song, it 
focuses attention away from danger. 

In the calculated isolation of the clean 
room, workers fashion the most sensitive 
and inscrutable computer components: a 
variety of chips, disk surfaces, and disk- 
drive heads. Their microscopic scale and 
their metamorphosis from mere sand and 
gas fall plausibly within the realms of 
revelation and magic, even among the 
engineers who design and control the 

Managers compare the clean rooms they 
supervise to the conscientiously scrubbed 
intensive care units of hospitals. Both are 
micro-environments requiring special 
gowns, face masks, and artificial atmo- 
spheres. Both connote protection from 
unseen danger. Even the paths danger 
stalks are similar: the particles that destroy 
microchips and the viruses that infect ICU 
patients are measured in microns (mil- 
lionths of a meter). The analogy conceals a 
horrible irony. 

Engineers design clean rooms to protect 
modern machine parts — the inanimate 
"patients" workers treat to support elec- 
tronic life. But clean rooms are neither 
clean nor safe for workers. The irony is 
easily lost in the loneliness, fatigue, and 
dull ritual of their work. But the undetected 
dangers produce human suffering that is 
no less palpable for going unexamined by 
industry, unreported in local media, and 
often unattributed by the victims. 

Columnists and congressional commit- 
tees perennially brood over the military's 
stockpiling of nerve gases. No such brood- 
ing accompanies the mundane exposure by 
electronics workers to arsine, phosphine, 
diborane and chlorine, the latter inter- 
nationally abhorred over 60 years ago after 
its use as a weapon on the Western Front. 
These gases are prized by the semiconduc- 
tor industry because they impart electrical 
properties to microchips. They are among 
the most toxic substances in the biosphere. 
When mixed and released under pressure 
at high temperatures and in extreme 
environments, they combine to hazardous 
effect — effects modern medicine studious- 
ly ignores. 

The chemicals deployed by the semi- 
conductor, printed circuit board and disk- 
drive industries include life-altering muta- 
gens and carcinogens, as well as less 
mysterious gases and acids that sear and 
disfigure human tissue on contact. Many 
elude detection, despite the criminal 
reassurances of clean room managers, one 
of whom (with a Ph.D. in chemisty) told me 
that workers can sense chemicals "below 
the level of harm." Poor warning qualities 
make most of these chemicals dangerous in 
a particularly sinister way. Still other 
qualities simultaneously enlarge and hide 

the danger. 

Chemical injuries are confusing. They 
may not announce themselves immediate- 
ly; trace toxins can accumulate in fatty 
tissue for years before a weight loss 
releases them into the victim's system. 
Then too, the symptoms induced by 
chronic exposure often are indistinct, 
masquerading as those accompanying 
common illness. Chemicals also can spon- 
taneously create harmful compounds. One 
of many evacuations at a National Semi- 
conductor clean room began with leaking 
silicon tetrachloride. Silicon tetrachloride 
emits hydrogen chloride fumes, which, 
when inhaled, react with moisture in 
mouth, throat, and lungs to form hydro- 
chloric acid that dissolves living tissue. 

Semantic conventions celebrate the con- 
fusion, in electronics workplaces, workers 
see and hear the industry's neutral desig- 
nations: "agents," "chemicals," 
"gases," or perhaps "aggressive tluids." 
When encountered in soil, in ground 
water, or in sewage effluent, the same 
substances are identified by hydrologists 
and environmental officials as "contami- 
nants," "poisons," and "toxic wastes." 
Another disarming convention: clean room 
ceilings contain "laminar flow filters" that 
"clean" the recirculating air in the work 
area. Engineers design similar filters into 
chemical pumps and equipment to 
"purify " the gas or acid that etches the 

delicate circuitry in wafers. But the filters 
catch only particulates — solid microscopic 
matter — not fumes that kill brain and blood 
cells or strip human immune defenses. 

How often are workers exposed to 
dangerous substances? 

The answer must be reconstructed from 
scattered clues that occasionally slip 
through a tightly-meshed net of secrecy 
that shrouds the labor process. And the 
nicsh is shrinking. Pleading the sanctity of 
"trade secrets" in a highly competitive 
market, the semiconductor industry's 
production techniques, chemicals — even 
the brand names of its clean room equip- 
ment — now constitute "proprietary infor- 
mation." In Silicon Valley, local fire 
departments are the only outside force 
priw to the chemicals unleashed by these 
lirms. Daily logs that list e\acuations and 
their etfects. tapes from such fume-detec- 
iioii ss stems as arc used, injured-worker 
dismissal memos — these clues are closely 
guarded h\ a handful of clean-room and 
liUiiil managers and the vice-presidents to 
whom thc\ lepiiii. During injured worker 
compciisalK)!) healings, the clues are with- 
held li\ obliging lawNcrs and judges, or 
oilierw ise simply evaporate, like the volatile 
gases they point to. 

With hundreds of clean rooms in Silicon 
Valles . evacuations probably occur vveekl> , 
though, like the mysterious runway fires at 
the Nav\'s Moffet Field, thev arc rareK 



reported. An IBM-San Jose worker told 
me of chemical leaks causing evacuations 
in his clean room an average of once every 
three months; he had experienced 20 

Evacuations imply major exposures. 
These are likely outnumbered by chronic 
minor exposures of the sort that occur 
daily: leaky processing equipment that 
spews chlorine or silane clouds into the 
laminar flow; acetone-laced freon that 
blasts the faces of workers lifting wafers 
from ultrasonic vapor-cleaning equipment 
— the equivalent of sniffing airplane glue. 
Even hooded (ventilated) processing equip- 
ment leaks: A "state-of-the-art" dry- 
etching machine designed for inherently 
more dangerous gallium arsenide wafers 
comes equipped with its own laminar flow. 
But access windows and cracks in the 
transparent plexiglass doors provide a way 
out for chlorine vapors. And with most 
sealed and hooded equipment, the cham- 
bers that seconds ago contained arsine, 
phosphine, and xylene are opened by clean 
room workers removing an old batch of 
wafers and inserting a new one. 

What kinds of dangers are workers 
exposed to? 

The human nose cannot detect arsine 
(gaseous arsenic) until it reaches a concen- 
tration twenty times the established (and 
probably understated) danger threshold; 
likewise with phosphine until it reaches a 
concentration six times the danger 
threshold, and diborane 33 times the 
threshold. Heart palpitations, pneumonia, 
anemia, skin cancer, and damage to the 
liver, kidneys, spinal column, and eyes are 
among the milder symptoms that we know 
these chemicals induce. 

Hydrofluoric and hydrochloric acids are 
used to harden and etch microchips, in 
electroplating processes common to the 
computer industry, and by assemblers 
outside the clean room to retard oxidation 
of the solder that attaches chips to boards. 
Like the gases mentioned above, hydro- 
fluoric acid cannot always be felt immedi- 
ately. But even a dilute concentration can 
seep through the skin, destroying tissue in 
its wake, and causing extremely painful, 
slow-healing ulcers. The damage is not 
always as easily or immediately reckoned. 
The same acid may eat away at the calcium 
in a worker's bones, especially the lower 
back and pelvis, thus preparing the 
possibility years later of a fracture, not 
ostensibly linked to occupational environ- 

Repeated exposure to hydrochloric acid 
irritates the skin and the upper air 
passages; the resulting symptoms — laryn- 
gitis, bronchitis, dermititis — double as 
those from a cold, hay fever, or other 
allergies. This resemblance makes it 
possible to dismiss the occupational 
connection, a resemblance electronics 
firms take systematic advantage of during 

injured workers' compensation hearings. 

Trichloroethane (TCA) and methylene 
chloride, chloroform, and carbon tetra- 
chloride are used as solvents to clean the 
chips, disk-drive actuators, and computer 
boards. They contain cancer-causing 
stabilizers. In small amounts they, too, are 
undetectable and cause dermatitis, depres- 
sion, and mental dullness. 

Many of these substances induce 
"sensitization" or "chemical hypersensi- 
tivity," a dread condition that multiplies 
the harmful effects even of small exposures 
to chemicals. This disease is easily the 
most controversial, confusing, and alarm- 
ing one for all involved, including the 
medical community, among whom immu- 
nological knowledge is in a state of 
primitive accumulation. This condition is 
known variously as 'environmental ill- 
ness," "20th-century disease," or "chem- 
ically induced T-cell inadequacy." Com- 
pany lawyers and doctors dismiss it as a 
"psychomatic disorder." But by less 
biased accounts, the diagnosis reads like a 
technical description of AIDS, acquired 
immune deficiency syndrome. 

"Chemically-induced AIDS provides a 
similar picture as virally-induced AIDS," 
according to an immunologist who has 
treated over 400 cases of T-cell inade- 
quacy, half of them Silicon Valley workers. 
The AIDS phobic American public knows 
nothing of its chemically-induced relative, 
even though it may be casually transmitted 
at workplaces where hundreds of thou- 
sands of women and men work. 

The immune system is a crucible of 
microbiological war and peace. Whether 
incited by a perceived or real threat (a 
psycho/somatic border the immune system 
straddles to the consternation of parochial 
researchers) it acts as both sword and 
shield. But its sentinels are confused and 
deceived by a world whose substances 
tinker with the immunological balance 
evolution has struck. A plethora of new 
chemicals and viruses generates immense 
pressure to adapt, and to do so quickly. 
Apparently, this pressure pushes to the 
limit our immunological resources to 
preserve health in the interim. 

The pressure to successfully adapt and 
preserve is played out microscopically. 
Essential to the body's immune system are 
the T-cells that detect disease at the 
cellular level. The sentinel T-cells 
sense an offending virus or chemical as it 
enters the body, and then dispatch B-cells, 
the antibodies or cellular footsoldiers, to 
dispel the invading substance. 

Research suggests that the virally- 
induced AIDS afflicting the gay and 
IV-needle-using communities tends actual- 
ly to deplete T-cells in its victims. In 
contrast, the limited and contested evi- 
dence available suggests that chemically- 
induced AIDS may render T-cells dys- 
funcfional, rather than deplete them. 

When chronically exposed to one or a 
combination of toxic substances, an elec- 
tronics worker's overstimulated T-cells 
may simply fail to regulate the B-cells 
properly. B-cells — and accompanying al- 
lergic reactions — are unleashed at the 
slightest provocation. The confused and 
overworked immune system fails, and in 
some cases, never recovers. As this occurs, 
mere traces of toxic substances can induce 
violent and life-threatening allergic res- 
ponses. Workers who bring a history of 
allergies to the clean room seem to be pre- 
disposed to this condition. 

The clean room is a chemical cornucopia; 
the chemicals it pours forth are found in 
products that occupy the aisles of phar- 
macies, hardware stories, automotive 
shops, and supermarkets and thus find 
their way into the cabinets and cupboards 
of kitchens, bedrooms, boudoirs, and bath- 
rooms. These become quarantined territory 
for many chemically injured electronics 
workers. For example, workplace expo- 
sures to chlorine gas can result in allergic 
reactions even to mild laundry bleaches at 
home. Clean-room exposure to the 
fetal-toxin glycol ether may not only cause 
miscarriages, but may also induce hyper- 
allergic reactions to the traces of glycol 
ether in printing ink, paint, perfume, 
cologne, and oven and glass cleaners. 

With a weakened immune system, the 
injured worker is prey to a host of oppor- 
tunistic infections and viruses. The list of 
symptoms and conditions is long and 
painful to contemplate: chronic headaches, 
hyperventilation, colds and influenza, 
short-term memory loss, laryngitis, eye, 
bladder, lung, breast, and vaginal infec- 
tions, menstrual problems, inability to 
conceive, and spontaneous abortions, some 
of which have occurred in company wash- 
rooms. So insidious is the immunological 
damage that it may also compromise the 
effect of antibiotics and conventional 
treatments. Victims typically require a 
variety of expensive physical and psy- 
chological therapy. 

Rivaling the physical misery of chemical 
injury is the isolation to which it banishes its 
victims, who now must avoid casual contact 
with chemicals that are everywhere. This 
can mean a forced and open-ended retreat 
from society — friends, lovers, parties, 
dining out, even walks or shopping trips. 

The only feature San Jose News article 
on this topic provided a glimpse of a 
chemically-injured clean-room worker's 
modern hermitage: 

"She doesn't venture out much 
beyond her house, which she cleans 
with nothing stronger than Ivory 
soap... She no longer keeps pets. She 
can't bathe her children: chemicals in 
the tap water make her sick. A trip 
to the grocery store means a raging 
headache and a nosebleed by the time 
she's through. Before she worked at 

^'=^OCESSE'D WC^I O n'-^ 


AMD [Advanced Micro Devices], she 
reacted only to tomatoes and penicil- 
lin; her current list of allergies ex- 
tends from auto exhaust, beef, and 
chlorine to wool." 

Another disabled and now socially 
isolated worker told a MS. Magazine jour- 
nalist. "1 used to have so many friends. 1 
used to have parties." Violently allergic to 
hair spray, perfume, cigarette smoke and 
plagued with ever-present headaches, she 
has difficulty concentrating and remem- 
bering things. "1 want to be sharp like I 
used to be. I want to be interesting." 

In the constricted world of the chemically 
injured, we find the tragic apotheosis of the 
crescendo — the sense of isolation and 
removal from the world that the clean room 
imparts to its workers. 

It is an old story. It recalls the maiming 
of meatpacking workers chronicled in 
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle or the stealing 
ot breath from miners described in 
Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier. In those 
times, public pressure and direct action by 
enlightened and outraged workers and 
their allies prompted attention and 
redress, albeit too little and too late. Then 
the unambiguous evidence of industrial 
barbarism was forgotten. 

The carnage in the electronics workplace 
is rarely scored in spilled human blood, 
more often in the invisible world of cor- 
puscle and chromosome. It may have to 
grow considerably before the negligence is 

appreciated and acknowledged. Perhaps 
half a dozen magazines have run stories on 
the chemically injured workers of Silicon 
Valley; some of these deftly avoid obvious 
conclusions, diffuse responsibility for the 
atrocities, take corporate denials at face 
value, or conclude, as clean room 
managers often do today, that times have 
changed, that the dangers are no longer 
with us. Others conclude that more study is 
required before the danger can be properly 
understood. This last conclusion is 
probably correct, though inadequate. Un- 
fortunately, only a handful of people not 
employed by electronics corporations 
understand the issues, and their sugges- 
tions of preemptive measures — protection 
that gives workers' health the benefit of 
the doubt — go unheeded. 

When one considers that many of the 
dangers are avoidable: that existing toxic 
monitoring technology remains unsold for 
lack of demand; that installed monitors are 
turned off to save energy or tampered with 
to allow higher exposures; and that public 
officials fail to enforce existing laws, deny 
funding for potentially revealing studies, 
issue toothless warnings and not even 
token fines — then the oversight escalates 
into criminal negligence. The negligence is 
no less criminal for being the opaque 
product of essentially economic and 
bureaucratic forces, rather than that of 
manifestly evil men. 

The distinction is an instructive one. 
Clean room managers may genuinely care 
about their workers' health. But a low chip 
yield is a more likely source of insomnia 
because it is the more decisive force in the 
daily scheme of things. Privately, corpo- 
rate executives may feel badly about the 
injuries inflicted by their ventures, but 
they comfort themselves with the notion 
that safety costs workers jobs by diverting 
funds away from "productive" investment. 

And what of workers? Their ignorance 
and inaction can be excused only so long; 
how many of their sisters must be stricken, 
fired, and denied compensation by the 
Corporate Point of View before workers 
take heart, reject the divisive calculations 
of job security, and act accordingly? 

What it points to is a conspiracy of 
unquestioned belief in the competitive 
pursuit of profitable technology. This 
pursuit underwrites the entire high 
technology project and prompts corpora- 
tions to charter themselves in ways that 
preclude all but inhuman concerns: i.e.. 
their product's margin, its market, and 
above all. its competition. Ah, competition. 
The Sirens sing of it. Inside the clean room 
its melodic dirge can be heard. Its rhythms 
score the hellish din of the crescendo, 
above which we hear so little and under- 
stand even less. 

-by Dennis Hayes 


Modern Kids Want Barbie's 

Clean Room Gear' 

Comes with bunnysuit, microchips, tweezers, 
and dangerous chemicals. 

Play with chlorine, gallium arsenide, and 
hydrochloric acid! 

Watch Barbie blister, peel, disintegrate! 
Then, dress-up a fresh doll— comes with three 

extra dolls! 


"Comes In a box, Leaves in a box" ''^ /V^ 

Contek Games Division 
Landfill, UT 83443 

ys^ ^ 



THE FACTORY AND BEYOND, A review of LAST WORDS by Antler (Ballantine Books, NY: 1986) $4.95. Reviewed by klipschutz. 

who will remember Continental Can Company 
was the foremost aluminum polluter on earth? 

The five billion bacteria in a teaspoon of soil? 

The million earthworms per acre? 

What bug? What fish? What frog? What snake? What bird? 
What baluchitherium or pteranodon? 
What paleolithic man? 

How can I apologize to primeval shorelines cluttered with 


— from "Factory" 

To William Blake, factories were "dark Satanic 
mills." The priest-kings of capitalism chose to 
ignore the disparagements of the eccentric 
English engraver and the Industrial Revolution 
spawned the technological Triumph of the West. 
The United States, as the Firesign Theater put it, 
decided to "invite immigrants over and make 

Originally published in 1980 in the City Lights 
Pocket Press series and hailed by critics and poets 
— notably Allen Ginsberg — as a major achieve- 
ment, the poem now appears in a full-length 
volume. Last Words, by a poet who goes by the 
name of Antler. Antler was raised in and around 
Milwaukee, where (the poem opens): 

The machines waited for me. 

Waited for me to be born and grow young. 

For the totempoles of my personality to be carved, 

and the slow pyramid of days 
To rise around me, to be robbed and forgotten. 
They waited where I would come to be, 

a point of earth. 
The green machines of the factory, 

the noise of the miraculous machines of the factory. 
Waited for me to laugh so many times, 

to fall asleep and rise awake so many times, 

to see as a child all the people I did not want to be 

By now the U.S. has made plenty of cars, and 
lots of everything else. But, publicly, we chose to 
call attention not to manufacturing but to 
marketing — it requires cleverness and hand- 
shakes and you can do it wearing a suit. In our 
national mythology, Vulcan at his forge has been 
replaced by the Willy Lomans and Lee lacoccas. 
Our televisions show a nation of go-getters getting 
over, with marketing the key to everything from 
romance to finance to eternal salvation. But 
behind all the hype is still the Product, and 
whether it's an after-shave, a briefcase or a Moral 
Majority membership card, the chances are it 
comes from a factory. 

"Factory" is also the title of a poem, a 1600-line 
song of praise to Bad Attitude on behalf of all 
the men and women who spend their lives inside 
factories while Madison Avenue transmutes their 
sweat and boredom into The Economy. An epic 
poem is a poem containing history, and history is 
the poem written by Time with our blood. 
"Factory" is history with the blood still wet. 

Written in the 'Whitmanic line' — long, some- 
times prosy, free-verse lines of mostly spoken- 
style American language, meant to be read 
aloud — the rhythms of the poem's 13 sections rise 
and fall like music. 

In the mid-1800's, Walt Whitman had great 
hopes for America. It would have been nice if he 
was right, but he wasn't. Antler updates 
Whitman, fusing the roles of prophet and witness 
with social protest in a voice that calls to mind 
vintage Ginsberg. Yet the voice is Antler's own- 
less Old Testament and more Midwestern work- 
ing-class than Ginsberg: something like "Howl" 
and The Grapes of Wrath mixed together. 

By turns ecstatic, furious, resigned, punning, 
informative, vengeful, paranoid, plotting, plod- 
ding and delirious, the poem's cycles remind me 
of the inner life of a workday at any job that 
occupies the body and leaves the mind to its own 
devices. Every fear, hope, scheme, dream and 
despair known to humankind can run through a 
mind in one eight-hour day. 



Antler exhaustively portrays these moods and 
mood swings. How did I get here, he asks: 

All the times walking to school and back, 

All the times playing sick to stay home and have fun. 

All the summers of my summer vacations, 

I never once thought I'd live to sacrifice my dwindling 

packaging the finishing touches on America's decay 

The all-powerful faceless Ultimate Bosses: 

And the first shift can't wait to go home, 
And the second shift can't wait to go home. 
And the third shift can't wait for the millions 

of alarmclocks to begin ringing 
As I struggle with iron in my face. 
Hooked fish played back and forth to work 

by unseen fisherman on unseen shore 

The end-of-the-day aches: 

His feet feel like nursing homes for wheelchairs 

The lives not lived while working: 

Everywhere I could be and everything I could be doing right 

now — 

Feeling the butt of a cosmic joke: 

Is this death's way of greeting me 

at the beginning of a great career? 

Antler makes it abundantly clear that he has 
better things to do than make cans for Continental 
Can Company. But there is more going on in this 
poem than a personal protest against the raw deal 
of wage slavery. J ust like office work, factory work 
is not only unfulfilling and boring, but destructive. 
Somehow we find ourselves daily digging our 
own — and the planet's — graves in subtle ways 
that refuse to remain subtle: 

Before, I said — "There will always be room in my brain 

for the universe. " 
Before, I said — "My soul will never be bludgeoned 

by the need to make money!" 
Before, I said — "/ will never cringe under the crack 

of the slavedriver's whip!" 
Now my job is to murder the oceans! 
Now my job is to poison the air! 
Mow my job is to chop down every tree! ■ ■ ■ 
I spend eight hours a day crucifying saviors! 
I spend eight hours a day executing Lorcas! 

"Factory" is encyclopaedic and fun. We learn 
the history of the can, the number of cans used in 
the world each year, that children who worked 12 
hours in factories fell asleep with food in their 
mouths, how the poem itself came to be written, 
and why the poet has taken the name Antler. 
There are dizzying lists of all the products 
produced in factories, and towards the end of the 
poem the reader is even accused of looking ahead 
to see how many pages are left. The poem is 
prayer, incantation, confession, expose, curse and 
document. It bears witness to our rage and gives 
the cage of despair a good hard shake. 

Many people associate poetry with Culture, and 
you know how much we all like Culture when it's 
capitalized. Pablo Neruda sought an "impure 
poetry." Kenneth Patchen, who didn't see this 
world as a benign place, prescribed "a sort of 
garbage pail you could throw anything into," to 
dispel poetry's image as pretty, precious and 
rhymey. Antler has thrown everything in and 
come out with an impure masterpiece. 

Antler offers no readymade answers, any more 
than Processed World does. But, like Processed 
World, he asks the right questions with humor 
and humanity and, pushing an important subject 
to the snapping point, breaks through in 




"Factory" was written between 1970 and 1974. 
The remaining 63 poems in Last Words span the 
years 1967-1983, from the poet's early twenties to 
his late thirties. 

I remember thinking after first reading "Fac- 
tory," "What does this guy do for an encore?" In 
the sense that every writer writes the same book 
over and over, he does variations on a theme. 
Antler's theme is the holiness of all life and the 
illegitimacy of any authority that denies this 

This is a tall order, and some of the poems are 
more successful than others. Their length ranges 
from four lines to seven pages. One section, 
'Reworking Work,' expands on the issues 
presented in "Factory." "Dream Job Offer" is a 
playful fantasy of a job as a mattress tester in a 
department store window and includes the lines: 

Only those who enjoy sleeping need apply. 

No bedwetters, wetdreamers, sleeptalkers, 
sleepwalkers, teethgrinders, 
buzz-saw snorers, or those who 
wake up in a cold sweat screaming 
will be hired. 

The poem seems to me a sophomoric joke, not 
particularly original, but carried out so well and 
unself-consciously that it works. It's not profound, 
but relentless, obsessive. At its best. Antler's 
exuberant relentlessness becomes profound. 

Antler presents himself as a modern primitive, 
a mescaline visionary, a flower-sniffing back- 
packer; yet he knows not only what's going on in 
the world, but in his profession: the poetry world. 
He knows there has been a swing in the direction 
of aestheticism and experimental language- 
oriented poetry. In "Your Poetry's No Good 
Because It Tries to Convey a Message," his 
response is blunt: 

7e// it to Jews hanging from meathooks, 

Tell it to Wilfred Owen 's exploded face, 

Tell it to James Wright's cancerous cut-out tongue 

Tell it to Victor Jara's hands chopped off 

in Santiago Stadium, 
Tell it to all the ears, breasts, cocks and balls 

cut off in every war . . . 
Tell it to 52 million children under 15 

working in factories in Southeast Asia. . . 
Tell it to the $100 million it cost to kill 

each soldier in World War II. . . 

There is a stridency to his potent vision that is 
sometimes difficult to take. As with every book, 
every movie, there comes the moment when the 
work ends and we are thrust back into our own 
lives where nothing is simple: Where to from 

"We have good news, Mrs. 

Johnston . . . WeVe going to 

fix the machine that killed 

your husband!" 

These poems do not answer that question. They 
do give voice to things I've heard expressed 
countless times in countless ways: the technopea- 
sants are restless. Antler speaks for hedonists, 
anarchists and brash believers everywhere when, 
in"Why No 'Poet Wanted' in Want Ad Column," 
he talks back to the smug pragmatists and well- 
adjusted compromisers: 

Especially when you invoke a marijuana blowjob religion, 
Especially when you place Solitude Wilderness Vision Quest 

above all the Works of Man. 
They want you to get a job you don't like 

and have to be working full-time 

so you can't write anymore. 
They want you to confess 

your poetry is full of shit. 
Somehow your writing 

threatens them. 
Besides, Christ already said it all — 
So don't bother trying to say 

something new that's true. 
What are the words of a mere mortal 

next to the Son of God's? 




Gringoboy poets / cutting loose 

with new pinking shears bought in Paris France 

snipping away the wardrobe of unfashionable imagery 

Some put on the professional's frowning Lenin-mask 

and lean forward to scribble historic directives 

Some dress up in helmet and boots / deconstruction workers 

begin tearing down rusty syntactic scaffolding 

framed in a Futurist sunrise while 

some just flag down parataxis 

to carry them out of the smelly knife-lit barrio 

their own rage 

Gringoboy poets / cutting loose 

from the bloodstained mesh of social relationships 

all the others are flailing and gasping about in 

They can drift down in a diatom shower 

among loose particles and speech fragments 

slide in on the long combers of 

sentence after sentence hushing up the beach 

or back into an old shell in the warm grant pool 

wave their saw-edge critiques at each other 

from a distance 

Gringoboy poets / cutting loose 

with new scalpels they bought in Paris France 

cutting loose from the persimmon mush of their bodies 

to float in the sunlit brine inside the eyeball 

decoding patterns projected on the clean white wall 

to flatten themselves into pink bookmarks with legs 

so they can crawl between the pages of the dictionary 

and fall asleep 

to be pure brains curled in secret laboratory tanks 

like boneless embryos suckling on their spinal cords 

Gringoboy poets / cutting loose 

from the apronstrings of that old bag / the Signified 

Handsome and talented they get Language to marry them 

but when they find out she has her own oxyacetylene opinions 

that she does not come neatly apart like a toy typewriter 

that she sweats and screams and bleeds 

Gringoboy poets feel like cutting loose again 

Yes gringoboy poets want a divorce 

That's OK / Language wants one too 

Adam Cornford 







Snow in wind stirs pink packets 

around sweet n low factory dumpster. 

Not far cherry soda wasted. 

Not far beef blood 

trampled being covered. 

5 miles paint plant 

same effect. colder. 

Unique path enters lights on 

connecting vanishing trail 

into salted or shoveled experience 

to win 

paint factory job. 

Nathan Whiting 


So the ears get cold, ridiculously enough, 

and hurt like nails driven slowly into the skull, 

and you know that donning a hat 

is yet another task to be accomplished, 

that life is a secret between a body and a soul, 

a picture puzzle in which you are a part. 

This touching and betrayal — 

the everyday ache you try to assuage 

with heat, with Mozart, 

with projects and works in progress, 

those goals and quotas you strive to meet 

in the blessed forgetfulness of work. 

Power is what keeps the cold away: 
soft flesh, a pleasing smile, magnetism; 
or the engine turnng wheels 
turning sweat into money. 

It's a rough, unfinished business, 
and each gust hurts fresh before it numbs. 
How long can you keep yourself covered? 
When will you turn in? 

Barbara Schaffer 



for awhile, man 
i was long gone 

my credit cards made a beautiful splash in the water 
i let the wind take me out to sea 


disguised as music 

i stowed away in the bell of a famous trumpeter's horn 

we were about three choruses into a ballad 
when sunrise forced its way through the blinds 
but I didnt go quietly 

i knew there were jobs 

with low pay 

and mindless repetition 

behind her smile 
reuben m. jakson 


"I wish I was out at Golden Gate Fields right now 
instead of here. I'd rather be there 
than anywhere else in the world. All the horses 
and the people." She sat, 

chain-smoking, her lunch break 
one minute from over. She continued, 
something about the winner's circle 
and having her picture taken, inhaling 
and exhaling smoke for punctuation marks. 

"You want to leave now?" 

Two bodies straightened up and out — 
one male, one female, 
one youngish, one not. 

I moved, slowly, in the direction of my terminal. 
Before she sat down two lines were blinking. 

klipschutz © 1985 


Man talking to supervisor 

conflicted gestures of submission 

at odds with hate in eyes 

through the eccentric surface 

of what he seems to be saying 

shines a hidden burden 

the repressed suffering 

of the alienated subject 

who unconsciously expresses 

the unreconciled nature 

of real life 

right here in the administrative hallway 


It is a fact that a job interrupts my real work. 

My real work consists of counting lightning bugs and stars, 

Studying the lore of owls, gazing into tree rings, 

Watching violets bend in the evening breeze, 

Translating and transcribing animal noises. 

Waiting for the seventeen year cicada to unburrow 

So I can see its red, wet body glistening in the morning 

Sunlight, and take for a prize its tiny, alien husk. 

Tom Clark 

G. Sutton Breiding 











• n early May 1986, PROCESSED 
# WORLD interviewed Pauline Para- 
^y noia, and Stefan Ferreira Quver, 
two of the main organizers of a unioni- 
zation attempt at Flax Art Supplies 
on Marliet Street in San Francisco. Owned 
and run by Philip Flax, the store employs 
sixty people, who are divided into different 
sections: thirty work the sales floor, 
another ten in the warehouse, and the last 
twenty are managers, office staff, and 
outside sales people. 

Flax workers opted for Service Employ- 
ees International Union Local 87, which 
until now has mainly represented the jani- 
torial workforce in many large office 
buildings in San Francisco. The interview 
was conducted by Maxine Holz, with 
occasional help from Lucius Cabins. 
M: How and why did you start organizing? 
A brief history, please? Set the stage... 
S: [laughter] An opinionated chronology!.. 
Things slowly began developing in the 
summer of 1984. Flax had instituted a 
policy of company meetings where all the 
employees would be called together and we 
would supposedly be encouraged to give 
him our suggestions and opinions. A group 
of employees drew up a list of suggestions 
on how to improve things in the store. Flax 
just took the list of suggestions and said: 
"No we can't do this, yes, we might do 
that..." There was no real discussion. He 
just did what he wanted and, more im- 
portantly, promised to do some things he 
never did. We got a sense that this was not 
going to get us anywhere. 

P: But it was significant that a group of 
employees presented him with something 
— anything! 

M: So these meetings backfired. They 
brought in democratic rhetoric, but people 
took it seriously, and it became the frame- 
work for further organizing — just what 
they wanted to avoid? 
S: Right, right... The real breaking point 
was the annual review process... Every 
four months new employees get a set raise 
— after that, there is a yearly review. They 
are called in one by one and given "an 
opportunity to present their opinion on the 
matter" and then they're told what their 
raise will be. 

At the time we speculated that reviews 
in Oct. 84 were used to get rid of some 
employees who Flax felt were being a drag 
on the store — ones who were a little bit 
cynical or at least not as gung-ho as Flax 
wanted them to be. 

P: Not as drone-like! They weren't 

S: What management said was "You seem 
to have some attitude problems — we don't 
feel that you're happy here," this kind of 
thing. There was absolutely no established 

P: They didn't say "You haven't been 
filling your shelves" — nothing you could 
quantify. So many people got told they had 
a bad attitude, it got funny. 
S: At first, people came out of the reviews 
with these shocked expressions on their 
faces — they were very reluctant to talk 

about it. But, the fact that so many people 
were screwed over in the reviews, given 
measly or no raises, was a key element in 
getting people to talk. 

Part of our organizing effort was to break 
the ban on communication in the store. The 
situation got so wild that people actually 
started talking to each other, on an 
individual level, about how messed up this 
whole review thing was. The employees 
who approached Flax originally in the 
company meetings had a meeting of their 
own to see what they could do about the 

P: That's when I first came into this scene. 
I've never experienced anything like 
it — first of all I'd never worked in a place 
where people had so much contact. I'd 
worked in big offices where you had your 
own desk in a row but you never talked as 
much. I was really impressed by the fact 
that everybody was being so open about 
the reviews because I thought "Oh that's 
such a personal subject" and most places 
you never talk about how much you make! 
The people who started the organizing 
kept it under wraps, since some people 
might have gone running to Flax. At first 
they only approached people they could 
definitely count on. 

S: From one meeting to the next it went 
from 8 to about 12-16 people. We surprised 
ourselves with how many people were 
interested, so we said "What are we going 
to do?" We talked about looking into 



unions. I used to have conversations with a 
fellow employee about how we ought to get 
a union in this place. And we'd just laugh 
and say "No way." Given people's 
consciousness, you can't do that in a place 
like this. So, we just joked around about it. 
But people took that joke very seriously. 
Suddenly, at that meeting it was like "Why 
don't we give it a shot?" 

The floor manager at first was really 
happy. There was so much socializing! 
People were going out to lunch together, 
they liked that people were getting 
friendly. What we were doing was estab- 
lishing solidarity. We were very surprised 
at the positive reaction we got — after 
talking to people the first time we had that 
one-third needed to file for an election. 
P: And that's why we went for it — it 
wasn't a case of the union coming in and 
forcing us to do anything. 
M: Was there any point along the way 
where somebody said "Why don't we just 
organize ourselves instead of going to the 

S: In a sense we already had tried to 
organize ourselves. The committee we had 
before, the company meeting agenda, that 
was an attempt to organize ourselves. 
P: Legal representation was important — 
later we saw just how important. The legal 
power of a union was really attractive to us. 
S: And protection under the National 
Labor Relations Act in terms of organizing. 
M: Do you have to contact a union to get 
protection for concerted activity under the 

S: Not necessarily, but if we were to call 
ourselves Flax Employees Organization... 
P; We would still have to get recognized 
by the National Labor Relations Board, and 
that could take three years... It always 
seemed obvious to me it was better to go 
with a union because it's hard to get 
recognized independently. 
S: We looked at a few different options: 
one guy talked to some folks at Teamsters, 
I have a friend who was working with UFCS 
(United Food & Commercial Workers), and 
one worker talked to her husband Richard, 
who was with Local 87 of the SEIU. 
P: Local 87's way of selling themselves 
was their progressive history, their 
openness, the fact that we would write our 
contract. I especially liked that last one 
because it meant we would have control, 
ultimately, over the outcome of the whole 
thing. There was no way we would take pat 
clauses. We would write every word if it 
took all the time in the world. 
M: Was there suspicion about unions 
among your coworkers? 
S: Yes, because of the kind of people that 
work at Flax. Most of them have no union 
experience. They tend to by young, single, 
college-educated with a professional class 
background. They probably heard bad 

things about unions from their parents, or 
unions were outside of their experience. 

People at Flax come out of more 
privileged sectors, often they have fine arts 
backgrounds and are more self-confident. 
They expect to go on to better jobs, to 
climb a ladder of some sort even if they 
don't know what that ladder is. 
P: Several Flax employees are practicing 
artists. They have a sense of themselves as 
creative but they have to pay rent too. 
S: People have this idea that "this job is 
not my life." Instead of trying to improve 
their work situation their attitude is, "If I 
don't like it, I'll quit and be a waiter or 
anything, I'll move on." And we were 
saying "Look, whether you like it or not, 
you're spending eight hours a day here, 
half your waking life, so why not make it the 
best work situation possible? You have to 
take a stand..." 

And there's the individualist trip you get 
here in the US. You as an individual can 
make it. Because of this people thought 
they could stand up and take a position 
against Flax, but at th'' same time they 
identified with Flax and the private enter- 
prise lingo. 

This dichotomy has created difficulties, 
e.g. with Richard, who was used to more 
traditional "working-class" people. Work- 
ing-class people feel disenfranchised, but 
they have less illusions that the boss looks 
out for them and they also have less of a 
sense of self-power. So in organizing you 
have to build a sense of solidarity, a sense 
that they can make a difference, that there 
is something worth fighting for. 

Whereas at Flax, the problem is 
different. Employees fall for the argument 
that "Flax is paying us as much as 
possible." Their folks have been in 
management positions, so that's who they 
identify with. You have to convince people 
that they are workers! A key concept in our 
organizing was to get people to recognize 
themselves as workers and working life as 
a major part of their lives. 
M: So let's get back to what happened 
after contacting Richard? 
P: Feelings were running high. The first 
two weeks were scary, then when we saw 
we had support, we felt great. 
S: We had two-thirds of the people sign 
authorization cards. 

M: So you filed and management then 
knew what was going on? 
S: Yeah, we thought they were on to us but 
it turns out they were totally caught by 
surprise. We thought we could win the 
world then. 

Our first obstacle was to define the 
bargaining unit. The traditional technique, 
as we learned from Richard, was that Flax 
would try to hold up the election with 
challenges to the makeup of the bargaining 
unit. He would want managers in there so 
he could control things... To avoid his 

challenges and keep momentum going we 
agreed to a wall-to-wall bargaining unit. 
P: That meant everyone, including floor 
managers. It was the most democratic, but 
not necessarily the best choice, as we soon 
found out, though we felt we had to make it 
at the time. 

S: It only excluded five people: Philip Flax, 
the personnel, operations, and sales 
managers, and the head accountant. That 
left all supervisors as well as outside sales 
people which was a major point of weak- 
ness. The election date was set at the end 
of November, at the same time the 
bargaining unit was decided, and the vote 
was scheduled for Dec. 28. 
M: What were management tactics during 
that month between the time the election 
was set and the election? 
P: They handed out flyers with our pay- 
checks at the end of the day so you have no 
chance to talk about it. The flyers main 
message was "Here's what you lose when 
you go on strike, and here's how much you 
lose with dues." They really hit the 
economic issues by saying "you're gonig to 
be paying money to this organization you 
don't even know. It's just a bunch of 
janitors, the dirty scum, blah blah blah..." 
S: Flax also started holding mass meetings 
during work, but the most intimidating 
thing was the small group meeting with 
Mr. Flax, the VP of Sales and a couple of 
floor managers — basically it was 3-4 
managers and 5 employees. 
P: And they'd say: "We'd appreciate 
hearing all your views, please speak 
freely." And you'd say something and 
they'd say "No that's not true at all, blah 
blah. Don't bring in a third party who 
doesn't know what you really need. We 
always thought we could resolve things 
here at Flax with our open door policy." He 
made a big deal of the "open door policy." 
M: How did you respond to management's 

P: We would hand out three page flyers 
explaining point by point in question/an- 
swer format, which I thought was really 
good, and we held meetings. 
S: Yeah (laughing) we were good and they 
were bad. 

M: Was there any attempt on your part to 
keep them confused as to who were the 
main organizers? 

S: On the contrary, our strategy at that 

point was, the more outspoken you are in 

terms of your support for the union the 

more protection you have under the NLRB. 

Because if you keep your sentiments under 

cover and they find out, they can frame you 

and you have a harder time proving they're 

firing you for union activities. 

M: Was this brought up to workers to 

encourage vocalizing? 

S: Yes, in our small group session with 



management we were very combative. At 
this point we went from the peak of support 
and started losing ground for two reasons. 
Some people were floored by the manage- 
ment meetings— here they were before the 
authority figure. And, there were also a 
couple of people who were anti-union for 
ideological reasons who went along at first, 
but when given half the chance they gladly 
bowed out. 

There were people Flax could exert more 
direct pressure on, such as the outside 
sales people. We lost them because Flax 
froze some accounts due to the "volatile 
situation." That was a big blow to us all. 

And, he used the Kissinger theory of 
madman power management — the person 
in power becomes unpredictable. So Flax 
inflated the image he's cultivated all along 
of being this crazy, arbitrary unpredictable 

P: Yeah, he would walk by something 7 
days in a row, on the eighth day he would 
notice it and start ranting, chew the person 
out in public, make them cry. He played 
that up. At the time we thought it was 
stupid, but now we realize it was an 
intimidation tactic. 

M: I bet it was selective too, like choosing 
people he knew would break down. I'll bet 
he didn't do it to you two? 
P: Yeah, that's true. 

S: One more important thing happened 
before the election where our support 
slipped. We had an important meeting 
right before the election where a lot of 
office people showed up, and some 
managers. They had had a large company 
meeting which we had messed with a little 
bit. We had been vocal and defiant against 
things Flax said to show we weren't afraid. 
And I think he urged people to come to our 
meeting to do pretty much the same thing. 
People were voicing a lot of doubts and 
things they wanted answers to. Richard's 
view was that they didn't really want 
answers to those questions, what they 
needed was reassurance that we could 
hang together. 

M: So instead of answering questions he'd 
just give rhetoric about solidarity, which 
made people angry and suspicious? 
P: Exactly. It happened often at important 

M: What kinds of questions? 
S: About dues, etc. He would get around 
to answering the question, but only after a 
long philosophical explanation. He wanted 
to address where he thought they were 
coming from. 

P: And all they wanted was to be told "It's 
not that much money, only this %" and it's 
worth it, etc. 

S: One other thing that played a role was 
cultural prejudice or racism. Richard 
Leung is Chinese-American. He's from 
Hong Kong and speaks with an accent. I 
have a strong sense that several anti-union 


people also had cultural prejudices. 
P: It's sad to say they reacted like this... 
This did play a role at several key points. 
S: That pre-election meeting was impor- 
tant for us, we hoped to rip out of there 
with an 80% vote. But after this meeting, 
we went "Oh shit." The committed anti- 
union people in the store felt if the union 
came in they couldn't work there. They 
went all out to mess things up. They were 
Flax loyalists who thought they were 
getting a good deal at Flax, and their 
strategy was to make union meetings in- 
tolerable — very frustrating since we were 
trying to get people to give their free time 
coming to meetings after work. 
M: So these people were turning meetings 
into a drag. What did you do to try to stop 

P: We tried everything we could think of. 
We tried arguing point by point, which 
didn't work. 

L: Did you try to kick them out of meetings? 
P: No. I don't know if we should have. 
Some people wanted to. But if you're 

trying to hold a meeting for all employees, 
and you start kicking people out... 
L: It's tricky, but it seems reasonable to 
me after a period of clear, deliberate ob- 
fuscation to say "We're not really 
interested in the problems you are raising, 
so if you have had your say, please split." 
S: I think the key thing was the problem of 
facilitation which we didn't address. On 
this there was already a little tension 
between Richard and ourselves. 
M: Your meetings had noformal structure? 
P: Some had more than others. Sometimes 
we set agendas, and sometimes not. 
S: Our problem was, we never managed to 
get Richard to respect the facilitator so it 
was hard to get others to do the same. 
Richard saw himself as a fount of infor- 

P: He'd think "now is the time for me to 
come in and inform everybody." 
S: Another reason why Richard had so 
much power in the situation had to do with 
how the less involved employees saw the 
organizing effort. Our pitch was — "The 

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union is us, we can only do what we want to 
do, when it comes to action, strikes, 
contracts, pickets, whatever — a contract is 
only a piece of paper. What the union is, is 
our determination, our solidarity, our 
ability to hang together for a common 
goal." People would hear that but at the 
back of people's minds, see, Richard was 
the union. 
P: Definitely. 

S: And this is why Richard had so much 
leeway. We could say what we wanted, but 
Richard's word was official. Maybe we 
thought Richard should shut up, but the 
uncommitted people didn't want to hear 
fropi us, they wanted to hear from 

P: Because they've been used to hearing 
from authority figures. 
S: We would say "The union is us," but 
all along people still had an image that the 
union is like a company to which you pay 
your dues and then it does things for you. 
P: And they wanted the relationship 
clearly spelled out before they committed 

themselves. They didn't want all our ideo- 
logical claptrap shoved down their throat 
meeting after meeting. 
L: Don't you think skepticism is a 
reasonable response? You had chosen to 
legally affiliate with an organization which 
had legal responsibilities. The notion 
people had of unions is corroborated by the 
AFL-CIO itself — they have come out with 
the idea of trying to sell services to 

S: No, it really comes down to the old ideas 
people have of unions. They don't even 
know about recent stuff like Mastercard 
unionism. It goes back to the fact that in 
the US people have no idea of what the 
labor movement was born from, what it has 
achieved, the fact that you have the 8-hour 
day, or the minimum wage because of the 
labor movement. 

M: But you also have a guy representing 
the union who's not directly answering 
questions, not respecting the democracy of 
the organization. 
S: But people wanted Richard to talk and 

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cont'd, next page 

not for us to talk, because he was in a 
position of authority. 
M: How did the election go? 
S: We won the election on Dec. 28, 1984 by 
a squeaker, 3 votes, 55%. Sales and 
warehouse went for the union and the 
office, managers and outside sales people 
voted against it. 

M: Kind of a traditional breakdown: white 
collar and managers vs. blue collar and 

S: Those ten people who shouldn't have 
been part of the bargaining unit were 
crucial because if you take away those ten 
votes then the dynamic changes entirely 
(70% to 30%). The vote had all the 
negative aspects of being a squeaker 
though we knew we had most people 
behind us. But instead of a feeling of 
"yeah, we won, we've got it," there was a 
feeling of "Oh, the store's divided" and 
that hurt us later on. It became difficult to 
pull together actions. 

P: And then. Flax filed objections to the 
election. If we had won by 80% he would 
have been at the bargaining table. The 
close vote gave him the confidence to use 
the legal process against us. Richard 
warned this would happen — that Flax 
would try to use any legal means to 
obstruct us. Of course the objections were 
lies. Five months later there was a hearing 
that established that the objections were 
invalid. The judge called Flax's first 
witness "insubstantiated" because he 
vacillated so much. And the VP of Sales 
was warned he was on the verge of 
perjuring himself. 

S: In terms of the substance of the legal 
proceedings, the local board was actually 
quite helpful. They review cases and then 
have the power to hold a hearing or just to 
make a ruling. They ruled in the union's 
favor. Then Flax appealed their decision, 
to Washington DC, and that's where the 
process started messing up. It took DC 
months to organize a hearing and then 
after that hearing took place — 
P: It went back to the regional and we 
didn't get certified until Nov. 85. In that 
year a lot of things fell apart. 
S: What killed us is Reagan's NLRB. It's 
totally in cahoots with management. What 
do you do? I don't know. 
M: What was management's strategy 
during that time? 

S: There were firings and a lot of pressure. 
First they weeded out the warehouse. It 
was a real hotbed of union support. 
P: They also instigated a new (and 
oppressive) attendance policy in January 
after the election — a policy which pres- 
sured a lot of people to quit before they'd 
be fired. It was a major issue because it 
was a unilateral change of working 
conditions. All the people who are gone 
because of it either quit unnecessarily or 


were fired illegally. When confronted, 
management always blamed the controver- 
sy on the union drive, as if they had 
nothing to do with setting the policy in the 
first place! 

M: Was there ever any idea of... OK, this 
is going to take a year. In the meantime 
attention and interest is waning, let's do 
something DRASTIC right now and put 
everything to the test — to hell with the 
legal part of it? 

S: This gets right to the meat of the issue. 
Half of the people supported the idea of 
taking stronger action. 
P: Like a slowdown or a picket or 

S: But for the other half of the people, 
what was attractive about unionization was 
that there was an illusion of legal guaran- 
tees. With the union we were supposed to 
have protection, under the NLRB. A weak 
point in the organizing is that although 
many people have understood that 
ACTION is what we're finally talking 
about, other people see it as an extension 
of the legal system, believing that if you 
win a democratic election, the courts will 
protect you. So, they assumed Flax would 
accept the decision and be forced to 
cooperate. Those of us who wanted to take 
action had to keep asking ourselves if the 
risks of being labeled bullies would be 
worth the action. 

P: And it would force people to make 
decisions, which they don't want to do. 
M: So this was an issue of debate within 
the organizing group? 
P: Yeah. 

M: So some were saying "we want an 
action" and others were saying, "no, let's 
go with the legal process"? 
P: It isn't even that they were saying no, 
it's that we knew already that their 
temperament was such that if we 
approached them they would just say "Oh 
No! I would never do that!" But a week 
before they were saying, "Oh I support 
what you're doing — I support the union." 
M: So you figured you didn't have a 
majority to do any action? 
S: We had a majority in terms of support 
for the union but when the pressure started 
coming down and people started getting 
fired, we were incapable as employees of 
defending them. The only defense we had 
widespread support for was filing of 
charges against Flax. When we first filed a 
grievance, I thought it might be six 

P: I'd hear people talk and they'd say stuff 
like "Oh, you're lucky you got certified at 
all — it could've taken 2 years!" Two years, 
two months — we didn't know what was 
reasonable to expect. 
M: A legal nightmare. 
P: But we won! Even then we won. But it 
doesn't matter. 

S: The thing which 1 almost say defeated 
us, well we haven't been defeated yet... 
L: Officially the union is certified and 

P: Yeah, but negotiations have broken 

S: The weak link in negotiations is similar 
to that of the organizing — the issue of 
taking strong actions or going on strike. 
Flax was always saying "The union is 
going to manipulate you to go on strike," 
so we had to assure people that we 
wouldn't act unless we all decided to. But 
then later our bargaining power was 
weakened by this promise of sorts. People 
would read 'strike' into the smallest 
requests for support for the contract. 
M: That's where all the baggage that 
people have about unions and strikes really 
plays a strong role. 

P: We tried to keep grassroots stuff going. 
We published a newsletter ("Artery"), we 
tried to do things that would boost our 
morale. From time to time we'd have 
meetings, we'd formulate contract propo- 

sals even though it wasn't in the near 
future. We thought "let's be prepared." 
We tried anything just so people could 
keep their interest up. The newsletter was 
a success: it went out to customers, ruffled 
Flax's feathers, and got people interested 
again for awhile. But it had its time and we 
just kept on waiting and waiting for 
certification while people kept on leaving. 
M: Do you think that the people who got 
discouraged will be leSs likely to get 
involved in organizing again? 
S: There are 4-5 people left who went 
through the whole thing who think now this 
is a waste of time. But these are people 
who from temperament were always 
hesitant. A lot of people who were involved 
in organizing had their eyes opened and a 
lot of people went from being fairly 
uninterested to being activists. We had an 
active organizing committee of 16-18 
people. That's a helluva lot of people. 

The crucial thing is not whether people 
in the future would support a walkout or a 
job action. I think the crucial thing is that 
you had people really think about their 


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work situation. Especially when we first 
started putting a contract together. We had 
to sit down and think "How should we run 
this store, what do we want? What is a 
good health plan?"' This I think was a 
crucial step for a lot of people, to really 
start to think about what it means to 
work — what does a job mean to me? How 
should a workplace be run? What is right, 
what is not right? 

P: When we first started negotiating, we 
wrote in great detail about what each 
person does and why and how they should 
do it and how we wanted them to do it. But 
Flax had this clause he wanted to put on 
everytning: management prerogative. 
Managers ultimately decide. What encou- 
raged me though, is that we all sat down 
and worked out how the store should be 
run. It was such a project! 
S: For example we wanted reviews by a 
joint labor-management review committee. 
Have raises and everything decided on by 
an employee and management joint com- 
mittee. That's pretty wild shit for a 

P: Flax even said "I really congratulate 
you on this proposal, but there's no way in 
hell I'm going for it." 
S: We could have pushed hard for this 
kind of thing if we had a real strong work- 
force behind us. But now you say 
"contract" and people yawn. And a lot of 
the employees are. new and this union thing 
is outside of their experience. It's hard to 
get support when they don't know first- 
hand how bad it was right after the 

P: Yeah, one new employee said to me 
"I'm sure I would get this worked up too if 
I were you, but until this happens to me 
I'm gonna just go by the book and trust in 
the rules." 

The biggest problem in the recent past 
was when negotiations started to break 
down and they brought in a federal 
mediator. All of a sudden the mediator's 
saying "You guys have a really good 
contract" even though we were giving up 
things right and left. He may as well have 
said "At least you have air to breathe." I 
was disillusioned because we had wanted 

so many things before and it became 

obvious over time that we couldn't have 

them, if we wanted a contract at all. So it 

felt like we weren't really writing the 

contract anymore. 

M: Well that's their strategy — to wear you 


S: We're looking at the contract now as a 
means of organizing support for the next 
contract. The change in strategy in the last 
six months was seeing this first contract as 
an organizing tool, i.e. we don't have 
strength, the 80% to be able to really push 
for concrete gains but we can see the first 
contract as a forum for organizing people. 
What we need is action, but we're not 
strong enough, so the question is how do 
we build that strength? That, in a sense, is 
what this first contract is all about. It's not 
like we're gonna get a lot more vacation, it 
isn't gonna give us more pay. It will, 
however, define work conditions where 
now it's totally undefined and they can 
invent any policy they want. 

M: So you can grieve against violations of 
the contract? 

S: Yes and once you set the grievance 
procedure into action you can use it to 
organize people. 

M: And management can use the pro- 
cedure to gum things up! 
P: There's a time limit, within 5 days you 
have to do this, within 10 days you have to 
do that, 15 days total. 
M: The whole thing has to be settled 
within 15 days? 

P: Yeah. We think the grievance proce- 
dure is a great gain considering working 
conditions in the past. But many people 
can't imagine it affecting them directly and 
focus more on what they thought was 
promised them — big raises, whatever. 
S: And ironically when we started, pay 
really wasn't the issue; it was to improve 
working conditions with job descriptions, 
grievance procedures and objective perfor- 
mance evaluation. 

M: When did the economic stuff start 
coming in? 

S.: During the negotiations Flax said 
basically, "Fuck you on the working 
conditions, let's talk about economics." 
That's when he threw out our review 
proposal, he didn't move at all on the 
grievance procedure, he only wanted to 
discuss the money." 

AS of July 1986, some 20 months after 
the election for union representation at 
Flax, contract negotiations remain stalled 
and decertification is a definite possibility. 
Pauline quit in disgust several months ago, 
and Stefan also quit recently. Most of the 
other original organizers have also quit or 
been fired. 

to be continued next issue 




The Pursuit of Happiness, a saga of the San Francisco Financial 
District presented in one act and three days, by Artist and 
Audience Responsive Theatre (AART) at the Valencia Rose in 
San Francisco, Autumn '85 Written by Steve Omiid and W.B. 
Higgs. Reviewed by Lucius Cabins & Dennis Hayes 

The Pursuit of Happiness," a new musical play 
about office life, appeared last fall in San Fran- 
cisco. The performance featured four characters, 
each at a different level of hierarchy: a young female 
junior executive, Grace Werkerbee; her disgruntled 
male secretary, Lee Sloven; a gung-ho bike messenger; 
and a psycho-babbling Bag Lady, who has dropped out 
of office work and into philosophy (the voice of Wisdom 
in this show). 

This play featured five musical numbers, three of 
which could have been cut to the betterment of the 
show, which ran on the long side. But a snappy and 
sarcastic dialogue appropriately portrayed the myriad 
contradictions, banalities and ridiculous aspects of life 
in the modern office. The play takes its central theme 
from the title and poses it as a question: why work if it 
makes you desperately sad (secretary Lee's tormented, 
nihilist dreams of isolation from the world), physically 
ill (the bag lady's migraines and dizziness which drove 
her from office to street), incapable of recognizing 
happiness in the world around you (the parade of 
sensual but meaningless affairs in Grace's life), and 
blind to practical antidotes (captured nicely in the ska- 
influenced song "Grace Under Pressure")? 

The strength of the play lay in its depiction of the 
absurdities of daily office reality; Grace, eager to fire 
her insubordinate secretary Lee, is initially dissuaded 
by the enormous number of termination forms she must 

fill out. The following exchange with Lee pushes Grace 
over the edge: 

Grace: ... Did you get those reports done? 
Lee: No. 

Grace: Lee! I told you I need them today! 
Lee: You should have told me earlier. I'm only human. 
Grace: Well, can you stay late and finish them? 
Lee: No. 

Grace: Why not? 
Lee: Because I don't want to. 

Grace: But they have to be done today! The people up- 
stairs are breathing down my neck! 
Lee: That's not my problem. 
Grace: Now I'll have to stay and do them! 
Lee: Sorry. (He turns to go) 
Grace: Other secretaries stay late sometimes! 
Lee: Other secretaries are stupid! (He exits) 

The play reconstructs the office as a glass house 
whose occupants absorb and convey unnerving 
pressure and misery. Isolated from each other by the 
office hierarchy, they cannot rise above it, even when 
they share similar frustrations and circumstances. 
Grace insists that Lee obey a corporate memo to wear a 
"Happitime" Happy Face button (they work for the 
Happitime Products Corporation) while in the building. 
This policy ostensibly protects real employees from 
bathroom muggings by outsiders sneaking into the 
building unidentified. Lee abhors the button but 
succumbs to his boss's pressure. In the followmg scene, 



the bike messenger brings in a package 
lor Lee's boss and Lee demands to know 
where the messenger's button is: 
Bikeboy: Package for Grace Werkerbee 

(Lee keeps typing). Hey, I said 

package — 
Lee Wait. (Keeps typing) 
BB: (impatient) Look, I gotta — 
L WAIT! (types for a few more seconds, 

then stops and turns to Bikeboy, dis- 
dainfully) May I help you? 
BB Yes, I have a package here for 

Grace — 
L Where's your button? 
BB: My button? 
L How did you get in here without a 

button? I'm going to have to call the- 
se Wait (He digs the button out of his 

pocket ) You mean this thing? 
L. Yes, that thing. 
BB: Oh, come on. Look at it! It's 

L Look, / don't like wearing the damn 

button. But you have — 
BB: ALL RIGHT' (puts button on) There 

Now will you sign for this? 
L: No. I want you to understand why you 

have to wear the button, so that viext 

time, we won't have this problem... 

Lee goes on obfuscating and refusing 
to sign for the package on several absurd 
grounds, including the possibility that it 
might be a bomb. When Lee finally signs 
tor it, the bike messenger is all riled uJD~, 
throws his button out of the window, and 
slams the package down on Lee's desk, 
cursing him. "Pfee smiles maliciously, 
wishes the messenger a nice day — and 
calls security to bust the now button-less 

This scene struck m^ as a perfect 
example of how the powerless vent the 
frustration on those over whom they 


have petty, even temporary authority. 
How often does this happen every day in 
the work-a-day world? And how impor- 
tant is this to the general system, to have 
those at the botton bearing ill will toward 
each other instead of banding together to 
reject ridiculous badge requirements, or 
perhaps to take on significantly larger 
issues? The Pursuit of Happiness probes 
these underlying questions. From a 
convincing depiction of surface events 
the play stirs a deeper understandin 

The play also sensitively portrays tne 
personal and professional plight of lower 
management. As the eager, climbing 
middle-level manager, Grace Werkerbee 
is willing to put in long hours, dish out 
abuse to her underling, and limit her 
"free time" romances to quick, imjjpf^ 
sonal "fucks." Her pursuit of happiness 
in the form of career advancement is 
exploited by her company, and the play 
ultimately demonstrates that happiness 
and career are incompatible, at least in 
the office context. In this excerpt, Grace 
pleads with a higher-up: 

"Yes, f'll work them up for you 
tomorrow. By two o'clock, (pause) All, 
right, if it's that important. By noon, 
(pause) Excuse me, sir, 'but 'could I ask 
you a question? (pause) It'll only take a 
minute, (pause) Thank you. It's just 
these — reports, you know? It'^ just that 
they seem a bit — rout/ne. When I .ac- 
cepted this position, I didn't think I'd 
have to — well, yes, sir, I know that I'm, 
only a /un;or executive, but — What? No, 
it's not that. ..No, I don't think that it's 
beneath me. It's just that:,. Yes... yes, 
of course... no, I really don't mind. I' 
get them done." By fioon, yes. Okay. 
Goodbye. (She hangs up). AAAH! Why 
do I ha've to put up with this meaningless 

Lee Sloven, the surly secretary, 
represents a distinct and probably 
growing segment of the office clerical 
workforce: those who would rather be 
dancing, photographing, writing, acting, 
etc —but who cannot get paid to pursue 
such avocations (for a lengthy analysis of 
this segment of the working population, 
see "Roots of Disillusionment" in 
Processed World iib). Lee's bad attitude 
is shown to have a direct link to his 
frustrated goal of becoming an actor. 
Several scenes flash Lee back to his high 
school humiliation as a Shakespearian 
actor; the banality of his secretarial job is 
a painful reminder of his stunted 
creative impulses. The flashbacks offer 
insight into his refusal to be a "good 
worker". Lee does not derive his self- 
esteem and identity from his job. 

Status and respect elude the bike 
messenger, who disdains businessmen 
and office rats ("those who sneer at me 
as I g by") and enjoys the relative 
freedom and challenge of bicycling 
through jammed traffic, zipping in and 
out of buildings to which others are 
harnessed all day. But he knows in his 
heart that he's only a pawn — controlling 
his appearance and some aspects of his 
schedule compensate for that feeling, as 
does his ability to terrorize pedestrians 
and harass those who have power over 
him. He loses his job for defending him- 
self from an overzealous Happitime 
security guard who threw him out of the 
building for being without a button 
("The customer is always right!" ad- 
monishes his ex-boss). Gary Hinton's 
portrayal was slightly overdone: most 
messengers are much less gung-ho and 
triumphant about their jobs, among the 
most dangerous and least rewarded 
anywhere (see PW #15, "Road Warriors 
& Road Worriers"). 

In the end, all are fired from their 
jobs. After consulting with the Bag-Lady 
philosopher on her park bench, Grace, 
Lee, and Bikeboy conclude that they are 
better off without their unhappy jobs 
since, as they sing in the play's final 
score, "the pursuit of happiness is the 
point of everything." Where to go from 
here this one-act play doesn't even 
surmise, besides energetically recom- 
mending dropping out now rather than 

There is plenty of room for disap- 
pointment with this denouement. Like 
the 60's hippie subculture, the play 
suggests you, too, can drop out of the 
office rat race and do what you want, 
provided that you discover the will to do 
so. The problems of rent/mortgage/ 
debt, feeding oneself and/or one's 
children and material survival in general 
are brushed aside with nary a mention. 
Dropping out" may be an alternative 
to blindly accepting miserable jobs and 


STELLA... @a[}? w&M ^m m%ii 



, ONE.YOJ (aQJ it 
^1^ AT A ^ARACiE 
'^ALE I!,' t>ON'T GO -' 


the lives that accompany them. It may 
even accurately gauge disgruntled office 
workers' fantasies. But it is, at best, one 
strategy among many, and even then, 
only a gambit. It offers no insight into a 
collective response to what is obviously a 
social problem, or how society might 
shed its miserable office hierarchy. To 
do so, the play would have had to explore 
the questions "What human projects 
does office work advance?" "Is dropping 
out of work really an attractive and 
feasible option for hundreds of thou- 
sands of office workers?" This is a lot to 
ask. But it is certainly worth asking, 
particularly in light of the recent failure 
of the 60's drop-outs — the hippies — to 
sustain themselves as a social move- 
ment. By popularizing individual escape 
routes, The Pursuit of Happiness leaves 

open the likelihood that the system will 
survive and continue to impose the point- 
iessness and misery which this play 
portrayed so poignantly. 

AART's next performance project is the 
whimsical "eVe LovE", an environ- 
mental theatre piece which explores how 
we "tune out" our surroundings in 
everyday life. It will appear In Washing- 
ton D.C. in the summer and in San 
Francisco in the fall. A revised version of 
The Pursuit of Happiness is planned for 
S.F.'s Financial District. To contact 
AART, write: 527 30th St., S.F., CA 
941 M or 1711 18th St. NW, Ste. 1, 
Washington. D.C. 20009. 



^MiMiMiMtMiMifeiji^^iMlMlM fcJ i bJ l fcJ ^^ 


Dear P- 

I found your old letter but misplaced the 
questionnaire. Assuming Processed World 
is gravitating toward the marketing prag- 
matism of the 80's, let me propose some 
answers and you all conjure up the 

1. 1968 

2. 35 

3. 1984 Volvo 

4. $32,000 

5. Tonic Water 

6. Once a week 

7. McGovern, None, None, Carter, 

8. New York Review of Books 

9. Prophylactics 

10. More articles on Travel 
Hope this boosts your demographics and 
display ad rates... 

Sincerely, L.H. —New Orleans, LA 

Dear P.W., 

Responding to Zoe Noe's response in 
P.W. #16 — not all feminists have a 
problem with sexual imagery, but some 
dislike violent porn unlike the Feminist 
Anti-Censorship Taskforce. 

"F.A.C.T." is a direct response to 
feminist efforts to make producers and 
consumers of graphically anti-womon 
material legally liable for whatever may- 
hem may result from its propagation. 

Legislation empowering those hurt by 
violent porn to sue for reparations has been 
passed in some cities. F.A.C.T. calls it 
censorship. [Ed. note: So do many PWers!] 
The womon raped on a pool table in New 
Bedford after a spread of a pool-table rape 
appeared in Hustler may feel differently. 

Regardless, don't slag anti-porn activists 
just to defend your choice of graphics. 

Sincerely, N.F. — Middleton, CT 

To the Editors: 

I enjoy your magazine immensely as do 
many of my friends. I like the concept of 
dealing with the processes of the 
processed. My single complaint is that it 
makes my eyes hurt to go from one color to 
the next as I'm reading. Really, it is hard 
on them. I know you will think that maybe I 
need glasses, but I have had my eyes 
checked several times lately because of the 
strain of doing word processing at my job, 
and my opthamologist assures me that my 
eyes are 15-20, better by one point than 
what astronauts need. Not that you'll see 
me on the next shuttle... 

I would appreciate it if you would do an 
expose of the amount of pain caused by 
VDTs. Everybody wants to avoid this 
because there are so many profits involved. 
Nevertheless, I really hate typing on a VDT 
compared to typing on this little portable 
electronic typewriter I'm working on right 
now. Perhaps the biggest trouble with 
word processors is that they are always 
getting their operators lost. It seems like 
hours and hours are spent debugging the 
things, often a group of fifteen secretaries 
will be crowded around a single terminal at 
my office trying to figure out what went 
wrong. That's something I haven't seen 
said in print anywhere before. 

Well, what can I say? Maintain output. 
Sincerely — K.O., Seattle, WA 

Yo PW!- 

I see in issue #16 that the female graphic 
accompanying my "Road Warrior" piece 
in #15 and also the nude (oool how 
terrible!) collage caused a silly stir. As 
noted the graphics were by San Francisco 
bike messengers, not by me or any of my 
crew, but still they were fitting (except 
we're mostly a ten-speed scene with 
special "messenger bags" around our 
shoulder). The exaggerated graphic of the 
tough, big-breasted, ass-kicking road 
warrior mama underscores what we really 
are — in that genre of comix one exag- 
gerates proportions. If it were a guy, he 
would be macho-muscled. Sexism comes 
out of the context — I don't believe it was 
there. As for the "sexism" of the nude 
collage — gimmie a break! Being nude is 
what we are. By all means correct the 
imbalance by bringing in penises — l 
happen to have one and I love it. Come on 
folks, it's 1986, long ago weshould've 
gotten over dumb hangups. There is a 
difference between nudity/sex and sexism. 
Too often uptight leftists mix them up. 
When this flaming-hetero sees someone 
that turns me on and my palms sweat, my 
face flushes, and my heart beats, am I 
being a "sexist pig ' or am I just being 
sweet and human? Puritanism is (pardon 
the ageism) infantile. 
See you, love, Bob McGlynn, Brooklyn NY 

Ed. Note: We did a pretty thorough piece "~~"^~~-~^^^"— ■^^^■^^^■^-^— ^^— 

on computer hazards in PW H14, called Hi Processed World, 

"Unwanted Guests. " Each issue of your magazine gets better 

• and better. Thanks especially for Tom 

Athanasiou's piece on NSA's heavy 
influence peddling in restructuring the 
DES. However, I think the author over- 
looked one rather depressing aspect of the 
subject which tends to make the protests of 
Whitfield Diffie look rather pointless. 

Let's consider NSA's activities analo- 
gous to the OSHA/EPA role in setting 
workplace safety standards, which would 
make skeptical cryptologists the equivalent 
of environmentalists. It's important to 
remember that whether you're talking 
benzene levels or DES key sizes, debate 
over the validity of federal standards takes 
place in a vacuum that neither bosses nor 
workers give a damn about. 

OSHA can set whatever standards it 
wants to for workplace safety, but most 
employers ignore the standards, since they 
know inspections have been cut back and 
no one is likely to catch them. Even in a 
conscientious corporation, workers who 
have not been given extensive training on 
the value of safety features (and even some 
of those who have) are likely to dream up 
methods of overriding those safety mecha- 
nisms if they find them uncomfortable or a 
hassle (e.g., inhalation masks in closed 
paint shops — who uses 'em?). 

Similarly, NSA's main problem is not to 
convince the corporations that letting the 
agency decide communications security 
standards would be in the companies' best 
interests, but convincing companies to use 
encryption methods at all. Indeed, I would 
argue that Walter Dealey, Lincoln Faurer, 
and other past and present members of the 
Never Say Anything agency have only gone 
public to talk about communications se- 
curity because of the poor sales across the 
board on all data encryption chips and 
systems, be they based on DES, public- 
key, or something whose very name NSA 
has classified. In this context, the reason 
Athanasiou was looking for to explain 
NSA's dropping of DES may be that NSA 
employees attributed slow sales of DES- 
based systems to a lack of trust in DES 
among corporations who suspect (with 
ample reason) that NSA "cooked" the 

My own bet is that unless a company is 
involved in something like funds transfers, 
executives are going to quickly forget that 
their communications can be and may be 
intercepted by NSA, KGB/GRU, or even 
their nearest competitor. Sure, somebody 
in purchasing might pick up a data sheet or 



advertisement on a cryptosystem, but 
when a company is looking at a quarterly 
bottom line, encryption becomes one of 
those superfluous frills, like environmental 
control equipment. 

I don't want to downgrade either anti- 
establishment cryptologists or ankle-biting 
environmentalists, since somebody has to 
watchdog the federal agencies responsible 
for setting standards. Who knows, maybe 
the influence in standards-setting will 
become so blatant the watchdogs can send 
someone up the river a la Rita Lavelle. 

But if NSA or its detractors think that 
your average corporation is the slightest bit 
interested in either side of the cryptology 
debate, they're crediting the corporate 
consciousness with an intelligence it 
simply does not possess. 

And what does this say for the average 
rank-and-filer — the same blue-collar wor- 
ker who will remove an uncomfortable 
safety mask or build an override pipe 
around the company's multimillion dollar 
pollution processing system so litho 
chemicals can be poured straight into the 
city water system without plugging the 

Remember, the annals of cryptology are 
replete with horror stories of codebreakers 
able to break into an adversary's code 
system because a grunt worker at the code 
machine was too lazy to change the key 
every 24 hours. It's the same with com- 
munications security in general. Privacy 
and freedom of expression become 
meaningless in a society where they are not 
valued. Most Americans don't care what 
they are able to read because they don't 
read. Most Americans don't pay attention 
to the argument about the degree Big 
Brother watches them because they don't 
care if Big Brother has 24-hour access to 
their homes, bodies, and thoughts. 

Sorry for sounding so pessimistic, but 
I have to treat arguing over the validity of 
federal standards, regardless of the agency 
involved, as quibbling that does not involve 
99 percent of either the rulers or the ruled. 
It's a swell hobby and it keeps your hands 
busy, but it puts most people to sleep. 

No more cartoon monoxide, 

L.W. — Burlingame, CA 

Dear Processed World, 

The California prison world revolves 
around the ringing bell. Its ring proficient- 
ly pokes and prods prisoners to everything 
from breakfast to sleep. 

I'm not talking the ding-dong of an old 
iron bell, or the ding-ding-a-ling of a come- 
and-get-it dinner bell. No. I'm talking 
1980s, state-of-the-art in electronic cir- 
cuitry, high pitched, long sustained and 
loud ringing bell. The kind you continue 
hearing for a few uncertain seconds after 

the actual ringing has stopped; the kind 
you might expect to hear if you live near a 
jewelry store uptown, or in a fire station. 

Ironically, I've yet to hear the prison bell 
when fire breaks out, but it rings relent- 
lessly during fire drills. 

At Soledad prison, the bell shakes 
inmates out of bed at 5:30 a.m. It ushers 
them to and from breakfast, pushes them 
to their job assignments at 8 a.m. sharp, 
and later breaks them for lunch. The bell 
gives notice to resume work, ringing again 
when the work day is done. It sends 
convicts to their cages for count; it stands 
them up to be counted. The bell rings on 
and off throughout the day every day, 
denoting the start or end of every convict 
activity scheduled. It finally gives one long 
blast at 9:45 p.m., signifying the day's 
final ringing of the bell and also that it is 
time for everyone to lock up for the night. 
"Bells, bells, bells..." wrote Edgar 
Allen Poe. You hear these bells so many 
times a day at Soledad, after awhile you 
hardly hear them at all. 

I have a cellmate named Duke who drew 
a comparison of the prison bell to Pavlov's 
bell. It was more accurate than I cared to 
admit; California's prisons are notoriously 
antiquated, contributing to its 90 per cent 
rate of recidivism (almost double the 
national average), but still, I was reluctant 
to see my humble home as a turn-of-the- 
century Russian kennel. 

As a joke, and perhaps to drive the 
message all the way home, Duke began 
barking like a dog every time he heard the 
beU — every time, from breakfast to 
bedtime. And if a bell rang in the distance, 
say, in another cellblock, he would whine 
and growl and let out an occasional yelp as 
if he were being teased. 

It was a clever and good imitation. I 
found myself darting up in the morning not 
because I heard the bell, but because I 
heard Duke barking and I was instinctively 
afraid he would start licking my face if I 
didn't get out of my rack. 

It was absurd enough to be funny, to a 
point. The barking got old in a hurry, 
though, like any joke repeatedly told. Soon 
I began ignoring Duke when he barked, 
hoping to discourage him. This approach 
failed, only prompting him to bark more 

Eventually I called him on it. I explained 
that it just wasn't funny anymore and, in 
fact, having a roommate who only spoke 
German Shepherd had become irritating 
and, worse yet, our neighbors were start- 
ing to talk. I threatened to purchase a 
muzzle through a mail-order dog obedience 
agency, which settled him down to a 
muffled whimper. 

He said he understood, and agreed to 
abandon his canine ways. We soon 
learned, however, his barking had become 
a subconscious habit with him; he was 
conditioned. Every time the bell would 

ring, Duke responded like an excited 

He would catch himself almost im- 
mediately, a forlorn look of misery sneak- 
ing across his face. To this day it is difficult 
for Duke to refrain from barking when he 
hears the bell, although regular sessions 
with the prison shrink seem to be helping. 

San Quentin has a similar bell-ringing 
policy, but the bell there sounds more like 
a foghorn, and it is usually out of com- 
mission. Its sound is so obnoxious that the 
convicts are continually severing the 
speaker lines, judiciously rendering the 
bell incapacitated. 

Most of San Quentin' s prisoners are 
long-termers, well-versed in the daily 
routine. They do not need a foghorn to tell 
them their breakfast is already cold. 

At other prisons not unlike Soledad, the 
bell system symbolizes a way of life, and it 
serves its purposes faithfully. It will forever 
ring a few minutes before the cage doors 
are unlocked, and since the doors remain 
unlocked for only a minute, inmates know 
when they hear the bell they better get 
washed and dressed and ready to leave the 
cell. They do become programmed. 

Of course prison — especially prison — 
has its share of nonconformists: that 
handful of convicts believing they can hold 
on to the last threads of personal identity 
by NOT jumping every time the bell 
sounds. These subversives are easily 
identified, as well-groomed and neatly 
conditioned inmates filing out of the cell- 
block trip over them and their clothes as 
they hurriedly get dressed on the tier 

The bell also serves as an alarm in the 
event a fistfight breaks out between two 
prisoners on the recreation yard. The bell 
alerts all the guards in the world and 
sends them swarming to the altercation 
where they promptly quell the disturbance 
by diving en masse on top of the two 
combatants, separating them, handcuffing 
them, then further restraining them by 
applying head-locks, kidney-punches, 
groin-kicks, eye-pokes, hair-pulls and a 
variety of complicated arm-twisting and 
bending techniques which are top-secret 
and taught under a strict code of silence at 
the California Guard Academy. 

How would prisons operate without the 
ringing bell? How do ex-cons function 
without the bell to direct them? 

The California prison system is home to 
50,000 criminals, each with a different 
past, a different attitude, a different 
dream. Each dances to the song of the bell, 
and that is the common denominator. 
Prisoners are made to respond in the same 
fashion as Wells's Eloi and Pavlov's dogs, 
and many live two-to-a-cage in cages so 
small state law forbids the SPCA to shelter 
one dog in a cage the same size. 

Man adapts, by virtue of his brain 
and/or force. The long-term effects are 
predictable: The prison shrink is certain 



that once Duke is uncaged and unleashed 
he will bite somebody. 

— Charles "E.Z. " Williams, 
a 27 year old "lifer" who has spent the 
past eight years at various prisons in the 
California Department of Corrections, 
including San Quentin, where he served as 
editor of the San Quentin News for two 

«£« %I# *A« «1« %X^ ml^ %S^ miM *f« «1# %i« «2^ «1^ 
*y» rj% •Y* •>* *J* *J* ^l* *J* *I* *J* *J» ^S* *!• 

Dear Processed World, 

My field of maintenance with a major 
airline is not exempt from computer boon- 
doggles, as you might imagine. In times 
past flight crews used to record the engine 
instrument readings on every flight into 
the aircraft log book. Nowadays each air- 
plane is equipped with data link communi- 
cations enabling the instrument readings 
to be instantly transmitted to company 
headquarters when entered in the cockpit 
keyboard. Not only does this increase flight 
crew workload— it 's harder to type 
information than it is to write it down — at a 
time when the crew complement is being 
reduced from three to two, it also makes it 
harder for us mechanics. When an engine 
develops a problem a complete record of its 
past performance was there for us to see in 
the log book, but now this information is 
buried somewhere in the computerized 
bureaucracy that not even management 
levels have gained access to. 

Thank you. 

Sincerely yours — J. R., San Francisco 

Dear Folks, 

Something I've missed lately in PW 
(aside from the smaller size, which in itself 
was intimate and subversive — easy to read 
at work) is commentary on local news and 
trends, overviews of Big Brother's plans. 
Such articles aren't just "doomsaying, " 
they're like storm warnings: Batten the 
hatches, gang. 

Locally I've noticed continued labor 
losses. According to an early May issue of 

the Oakland Tribune, Cost Plus nursery 
employees have just abandoned their 
strike, and probably won't get rehired. 
They went on strike when the employer de- 
cided to drop their medical benefits and cut 
their pay by up to $2/hr. The nursery em- 
ployees were of course replaced by scabs, 
and got to watch members of other local 
unions cross their picket lines without ap- 
parent concern (including Muni drivers 
and even Oakland teachers, who also went 
on strike recently). They also were 
threatened (by anonymous goods), and 
some strikers had their tires slashed. Their 
savings dwindled, and I've told you the 
end. Not as dramatic as the Watsonville 
canning strike, but worth noting. They lost 
because they had no community support. 

Other companies are cutting back wages 
and/or benefits as well, often instituting a 
"two-tier" system whereby new hires are 
paid less for the same work than the 
present staff (PacBell); or forcing people to 
take on the duties of employees who quit, 
without of course lightening their other 
duties or increasing their salaries (Manu- 
facturers Hanover Trust). The companies 
save on worker salaries that way, leaving 
more for management. With rent and 
living expenses rising, there goes the 
middle class. 

This city is beginning to remind me of 
Portland economically — sort of a cargo 
cult, putting up huge buildings on the 
theory that buildings attract business. 
Meanwhile, businesses are moving to 
corporate fiefdoms in San Ramon, Concord 
and Fremont, so the bosses don't have to 
drive as far or take BART, and can often 
pay less for the same work. Temp word 
processing, which is usually |l-2/hr. more 
than permanent word processing, pays 
$6/hr. in Sacramento. Check out Sacra- 
mento some time: Concord-style downtown 
monoliths surrounded by a Deep South 
shanty-town, still a fit place to film 

Regarding word processing, SF offices 
are going PC-happy. The people who make 
purchasing decisions don't know anything 
about computers, so they're replacing their 

dedicated word processors with micro- 
computers running a myriad of klutzy pro- 
grams—as a temp, I'm finding the 
machinery changing too fast to keep up 
with (where do you learn SAMNA and 
SYNTREX anyhow?), and am tired of 
spending my time and money learning new 
programs the agencies are reluctant to give 
me work in ("lack of experience" is the 
excuse) — and none of them compare with 
the dedicated systems for ease of use and 

Have considered "permanent" work, 
but the salaries for that are going down 
rapidly and the competition for the low- 
paying jobs is ridiculous. Why fight over 
chickenfeed? Word processing is becoming 
lumped with lower-paid secretarial work 
(not that secretarial work deserves to be 
low-paid either; just that one out is being 
denied to us). And the temp word 
processing market has slacked off con- 
siderably the last few months. It's difficult 
to get work right now; a few days here and 
there, where once the average was a couple 
or more weeks. More companies are over- 
working their underpaid staff, rather than 
hiring temps. 

In summary, this area is deteriorating 
rapidly. The grey-garbed devotees of 
Reaganomics are driving out the people 
who gave SF a reputation for being radical/ 
creative. Rents are rising much faster than 
wages; people are becoming homeless 
simply because they're forced to move and 
can't afford it. Am thinking of relocating, 
to someplace where the wage/rent ratio is 
better (not Sacramento), and ducking for 
cover. Hard times coming, if the cor- 
porations get their way (and our 
government is letting them). 

'Scuse my pessimism. It's just that 
improving matters depends on the 
majority, and they're not likely to do 
anything. They've been brainwashed into 
identifying with the interests of the rich. 
Anybody else feel threatened by the rising 
tide of "patriotism" and red-baiting? 

Good luck - BORED IN THE USA (Oak. ) 



WITH the:,,, 


NCTTHlMG Ot^ T\l,T0^il(JHT h.m^Ki ' 5W, DO YOO 






A Planetary Album for New Encounters: 

We have all got more or less 
precise ideas about a better 
lite. Why should such desires 
tal<e the form of bolos'' There 
are some obvious reasons for 
this— mass-states are too big 
and always repressive, while 
families are too small to be 
independent, bolos are approximately 500 people 
living together, supplying themselves with food, 
developing their own lifestyle, bolos are in fact very 
old: tribes, villages, communities, neighborhoods. 
They can exist in the country or in cities (blocks + 
agricultural basis), bolos are middle-sized units, 
universal social communities for us or the Third 
World. They are the only way out of our nightmare 
of work and misery. 

Information on such a vision of a world of villages 
is available in the pamphlet bolo'bolo, Semiotext(e) 
Inc., 522 Philosophy Hall, Columbia University, 
New York, NY 10027 USA. The booklet is also 
available in German and French. Russian, Spanish, 
Portugese and Japanese translations are planned for 
this year. 

bolos can only originate by new encounters be- 
tween people. Such encounters happen all the time, 
of course— "bolo-log" is an attempt to multiply 
them internationally and to focus them on a possible 
common frame of vision, "bolo-log" is to be a 
catalog of bolo-projects or just bolo-fantasies. How 
do you imagine your bolo concretely' How would 
you like to live with other people? What values or 
forms of behavior are essential'' Have you got any 
ideas about specific buildings? How would you 
imagine a bolo m your neighborhood'? How would 
work, production, education be organized'? 

It's impossible to describe a whole way of lite on 
one or two sheets of paper (for your contribution 
shouldn't be longer). Perfection isn't required, 
though. If you can give some ideas, some details, 
some sketches, it's enough to s^art a contact and 
further talks and dreams. Maybe it's dangerous to 
materialize one's own desires, because thinking is 
also a destructive act. Wouldn't it be thrilling to find 
a similar bolo in the bolo-log, imagined by someone 
from a country far away? bolo-log could initiate new 
encounters, stir up new inspiration, create 
connections useful for the making of real bolos. . . 

It is up to you how you describe or illustrate your 
bolo-project. It can be text, drawings, whatever you 
want, just in black and white, typewriter if possible. 
I'll print the contributions as I get them, in the order 
of their arrival. Don't forget your name and address, 
so that other bolo-logists can get in touch with you. 
If you prefer a pseudonym, it's okay. I'll handle your 
real name as discreetly as my own. You'll get a copy 
of bolo-log as soon as it's printed. It'll be distributed 
as widely as possible. Your help is welcome, of 
course. —P.M., 1st Jan. 1986 

Send your contributions to: 

c/o Paranoia City 
Anwandstr. 28 
CH-8004 Zurich 


examp/e538: KOITIOClO 

My ^o/o should comprise about 500 persons, of all age groups, 
including children. It is located in a large city (like Zurich or 
Boston) and consists of one or two blocks. There is a 
swimming-pool on a former street, covered in winter, there are 
three good restaurants of different cooking styles. Around the 
pool and comprising the whole of the first floor: large halls with 
fireplaces, chairs, sofas, libraries, billiard tables, a cinema, 
pianos, bars, etc. Visitors can drop in freely. It looks about like 
this (I'm actually living in one of those blocks!): 

glass-roof covering former street (winter) 

houses for 

windmill & 
'Solar collectors 


\i era MM" 


arcades to 
next bolo 

« 1 

« < 


halls, bars, 


swimming pool 

The external forms of social life can be manifold (6-8 persons as 
households, but also families, couples, triangles, etc.). 
Communal life should be flexible. Important "values" : 
generosity, curiosity, openness, mobility of mind and body, 
anti-hierarchical attitude, acceptance of risk, sincerity, equal 
rights. . . There is a farm (80 hectares) 20 miles away and an 
alp (in the Alps). There are intense personal/cultural links with 
Ita/y, Algeria, Spain, New York, Japan and Samoa (guests, 
music [jazz, folk music], cuisine, literature). Like the others I 
work one month per year on our farm, for two months I'm 
travelling and every 5-6 years I'm on a big trip (1 year) visiting 
related bolos. . . Komodo is a relatively quiet place. We're not 
into religion, try to stand emptiness and create coziness 
between us. Rituals are not important, they change on different 
occasions (death, initiation, etc.). . . Language and writing are 
part of life: English, Arabic, Italian and German are taught, 
learned, spoken and written in illuminated manuscripts. We 
produce clothing, pottery, preserves. . . Much more could be 
said about Komodo. Those who'd like to talk and dream more 
about it, should write to this address: 

Tom Smith or: Komodo ' 

M^'"^f^^^^ • bolo-log has got address 

Everytown, XY 99999 ^^^ will send letters. 

Processed World, 41 Sutter St. #1829, San Francisco, CA 94104 



"An order for a Mr. Blake, 
at his desk on the 11th 
floor... 5th quadrant... 
he's leaning over... FIRE! 

A pile of ashes in former Mr. 
Blake's office— put them in an urn 
'^Glenda? send in that Dartmouth boy with 
the telemarketing Tbackground. 


Nice Shot! 

Now send 

the invoice. 

Our laser harmlessly pierces through walls, 
desks, even other workers to find those old, 
useless personnel and disintegrate them on 

Your coffee 

Mr. Blake. . Mr. 

Blake? That's funny, 

he was here just a 

second ago . . . and 

what's that smell? 


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